Premature and sick babies can face hospital stays of several weeks or months, which can mean significant financial costs for families. A survey carried out by Bliss found that, on average, the parents we surveyed in England were forced to spend an extra £2,256 over the course of their baby’s stay in hospital. This is equivalent to an extra £282 a week. These extra costs included travel, parking, food and drink, childcare for siblings, and loss of earnings (Bliss, 2014b, p.4).
Some parents find themselves having to spend large amounts of money on overnight accommodation if the hospital is unable to provide any free of charge. A separate survey by Bliss found that a third of units in England are unable to offer accommodation for families whose baby is critically ill or being cared for many miles from home.
According to the Toolkit for high quality neonatal services (Department of Health, 2009, p.48), units should provide a minimum of one room per intensive care cot and two rooms in or adjacent to the unit for ‘rooming in’ (where parents can stay overnight with their baby before being discharged). All of the rooms should be free of charge and with bathroom facilities. The Bliss baby report 2015: hanging in the balance (Bliss, 2015, p.23), found that only five out of 24 intensive care units in England were able to meet this standard.
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Having a baby on a neonatal unit can be an incredibly stressful and emotional time for parents, and they are much more likely to suffer from mental health problems. In fact, research has suggested that parents of premature babies are twice as likely to suffer from postnatal depression as parents of full term, healthy babies (Carson et al, 2015).
It is vital that these parents are receiving psychological support to help them cope while their baby is in hospital, and after they come home. However, the most recent Bliss baby report (Bliss, 2015a, p. 22) found that at 41 percent of units, parents had no access to a trained mental health worker. In fact, at 30 per cent of units, parents had no access to any psychological support at all.
This problem is particularly concerning on intensive care units, where the sickest babies are cared for. Of the units surveyed, one third were not able to access a trained mental health worker and one in eight were unable to provide any support at all.
To read more of our Bliss baby report, click here.
Bliss. (2015a). Bliss baby report 2015: hanging in the balance. Retrieved from: http://www.bliss.org.uk/campaigns-and-policy-reports
Bliss. (2014b). It’s not a game: the very real costs of having a premature or sick baby. Retrieved from: http://www.bliss.org.uk/campaigns-and-policy-reports
Carson et al. (2015). Risk of psychological distress in parents of preterm children in the first year: evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. BMJ Open. Retrieved from: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/12/e007942.short
Department of Health. (2009). Toolkit for high-quality neonatal services. Retrieved from: https://www.nepho.org.uk/uploads/doc/vid_8769_Toolkit%20for%20high-quality%20Neonatal%20services.pdf