A Five Year Forward Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Care in Scotland, which is published today (20 January 2017), sets out the Scottish Government’s ambitious plans for the future of neonatal and maternity services across the country.
The Plan emphasises the importance of family-centred care for baby’s outcomes, and says that this should be central to a new model of neonatal care. It has been shown that family-centred care improves bonding and long-term outcomes for both babies and families. It is therefore crucial that parents are able to spend long, uninterrupted periods of time caring for their baby.
The new document recognises that accommodation is important for keeping families together, and also recommends that a review into the expenses incurred by families of babies in neonatal care is undertaken to develop a national policy to support families.
Bliss Scotland welcomes these ambitions, but is calling for the Scottish Government to go further to support families of premature and sick babies. The Plan lacks detail about the funding that will need to be provided to support these changes, and the timescale over which additional support will be put in place. Our forthcoming Scotland Baby Report has found that there is already a shortage of facilities for parents, including accommodation. We are concerned that the Plan’s lack of detail regarding how extra support will be funded and what practical help will be provided to enable parents to be at their baby’s cot-side may lead to delays in parents benefiting from these vital services.
"While we welcome the review’s ambitious vision for family-centred care, the Government must explain how it plans to address the practical barriers that keep parents from their babies", says Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive of Bliss Scotland. "The review shows a progressive vision for Scottish neonatal services, and it is particularly welcome that it recognises the importance of mothers and babies being kept together. However, services are already overstretched, and we are calling on the Scottish Government to demonstrate its commitment by introducing minimum standards on the level of free accommodation and other practical support for families that should be available."
Other key recommendations from the review include restructuring neonatal services to bring down the total number of intensive care units from eight to between three and five to make sure units in Scotland are structured in line with the best clinical evidence. However, this will mean that some families will have to travel further for at least some of their baby’s stay so it’s vitally important that units have enough accommodation and other support in place to keep families together.
The report also suggests that more transitional care facilities are developed. This would help keep mums of late-preterm babies or full term babies who need a little support together, and should help avoid these babies needing to be admitted to the neonatal unit at all.
Bliss Scotland will be revealing their findings in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 24 January. Ask your MSP to show their commitment to babies born premature or sick by coming along to our event.