Our history

Mums with prams peacefully demonstrating in the late 70s

Bliss was founded in 1979 by the parents of premature and sick babies.
Read about how and why we were founded below.

This is a quote from a neonatal doctor in 1979, when The Daily Telegraph ran a front page story highlighting the urgent need for better care for the UK’s most vulnerable babies.

We need proper equipment and trained staff to save lives. We are short of both.

Dr Donald Baltrop in 1979

Neonatal care in the 1970s looked very different to how it does today.

Funding for essential neonatal equipment was virtually non-existent, with one hospital in Bristol reporting an annual budget of £500 for equipment on the neonatal unit at a time when it cost around £15,000 to set up a single intensive care cot.[1]

Neonatal care in the 1970s


Neonatal consultants in hospitals across the whole of the UK


of referrals to neonatal intensive care weren't accepted due to a lack of facilities


Senior nurse per neonatal unit

Following The Daily Telegraph article, Mr Allan Chilvers wrote to the paper and suggested forming a group to raise funds to buy life-saving equipment and to help train specialist staff.

After receiving an overwhelming response, Mr Chilvers handed over responsibility to two mums who were passionate about the cause. Susanna Cheal OBE and Joanna Bertorelli arranged a meeting for those interested on 7 November 1979 and subsequently Bliss (Baby Life Support Systems) was born.

Since we were founded, our aim as a charity has been to give premature and sick babies the best start in life.

We exist to ensure every baby born premature or sick in the UK the best chance of survival and quality of life.

For 40 years, we have championed the right of babies born needing neonatal care by supporting families and healthcare professionals, campaigning for change and funding and enabling life-changing research.

Today, babies on the neonatal unit have a better chance of survival than 40 years ago, due in no small part to the role that Bliss supporters have played in improving care for babies over the years.

We’ve seen a transformation of neonatal care since 1979. But there is still a critical shortage of neonatal nurses, services are under pressure with far too few resources, and thousands of parents still have to return to work when their baby is in hospital.

Only with your support can Bliss continue to work to ensure every baby gets the best start in life for generations to come.

Help the next generation of babies

In 1979 neonatal care was so under-funded a group of parents had to get together to raise money for incubators. Today neonatal units are still under resourced with a critical shortage of nurses.
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[1] Christie, DA and Tansey, EM ‘ORIGINS OF NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE IN THE UK’ http://www.histmodbiomed.org/sites/default/files/44831.pdf