The Annual Report of the National Neonatal Audit Programme (NNAP) has revealed some premature babies are missing out on vital developmental health checks at the age of two, increasing the likelihood of significant disabilities being missed and specialist care being delayed.
The report was published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) with the support of Bliss, and shows that up to 45 per cent of premature babies leaving a neonatal unit in England and Wales do not receive a two year follow up health check.
NHS England guidelines state that all preterm babies born more than 10 weeks early should be followed up around two years after their due date to ensure they are developing normally.
The NNAP, analysed data from over 86,000 newborns in England and Wales requiring neonatal care during 2014 to produce the report, and produced concerns over communication with parents, with 11 per cent of parents not receiving a consultation with a senior member of clinical staff within 24 hours of admission.
The NNAP has made a variety of recommendations to improve neonatal services and the outcomes of care for babies. These include improved planning to implement two year follow up checks and improved consultation with parents, including the implementation of Bliss Baby Charter standards to improve communication.
Caroline Davey, chief executive of Bliss, said: “This audit highlights the need for high quality, consistent care for premature and sick babies as soon as they are born, as well as at key milestones. The two year follow up is a vital part of ongoing care and it is extremely worrying that so many babies are missing it.
“Premature babies often have health issues at birth and need close monitoring and specialist care going into childhood to ensure they have the very best quality of life. We welcome the recommendation that neonatal units plan for this as part of a babies overall care.”
Our latest baby report shows that neonatal services are hanging in the balance, laying bare severe staffing shortages - including nurses, doctors and the full range of professionals needed to deliver safe care to premature or sick babies.
Bliss is writing an open letter to NHS England boss Simon Stevens, calling for a review of funding levels for neonatal care so that services can meet the Government and NHS' own standards for safety and quality, and we're asking you to sign with us in calling for improved care.