Neonatal transport services are a vital part of care for premature and sick babies, to ensure that babies can be moved quickly for the right care in the right place for their needs. However, Bliss' new report shows that these essential services are often under-staffed, under-resourced and sometimes only able to operate in daylight hours.
Our findings show that there is wide variation in transport services for babies across the UK and many services do not have the resources they need to meet national safety and quality standards.
We found that:
- Eight out of nine transport services were unable to meet the NHS standard for time-critical transfers, which sets out that in 95 per cent of cases the team should set off within one hour of receiving a call
- One in four neonatal services in the UK does not have a dedicated neonatal transport team operating at night
- There is currently no air transport in England for the smallest and sickest babies who need a heated incubator
- In a one week snapshot, half of neonatal transport services in the UK reported staffing gaps
We also found that nearly 1,000 transfers of babies take place every year because of insufficient staffing and resources in neonatal units rather than due to medical need, putting babies at unnecessary additional risk. This finding echoes our Bliss baby report 2015 which showed neonatal units in England unable to cope with increasing demand and too few resources, putting babies' safety and survival at risk.
Investment is urgently needed to address staff shortages across all neonatal services, including transport services, so that every baby has the best chance of survival and quality of life.
Bliss is calling on governments and health services across the UK to make sure that all neonatal transport services have the funding they need to provide a fully-equipped 24-hour service. We are also asking health bodies responsible for education and training to put plans in place to address shortages of nurses and doctors, and for neonatal services to make sure that all parents are as involved as possible if their baby needs to be moved to a different hospital.
Read our full report here.
We need urgent action from government and the NHS to address the funding and resourcing of all neonatal services. If you live in England, you can help us by signing our open letter to Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive, calling for a fundamental review of funding levels for neonatal care.
Show your support for safer, better care and sign our letter now.
You can also highlight our report on social media using #neonataltransport
We will be reporting on the challenges facing services in Wales and Scotland later in 2016, and next year in Northern Ireland. Make sure you stay informed about all of our campaigns and policy reports, including this upcoming work in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by joining our online campaign network.