Our timeline

Premature baby's feet in a hospital setting

Bliss has been championing the right for premature and sick babies to receive the best care for 40 years.

We have done this by supporting families and healthcare professionals, campaigning for change and enabling life-changing research.

We’ve seen the total transformation of neonatal care in this time – thanks in part to our incredible supporters - but we know there is still a long way to go.

This timeline marks just some our achievements to date.


17 August 1979

The Daily Telegraph reveals urgent need for more neonatal units, equipment and staff.

Front page of daily telegraph in 1979 with headline: Wanted: More life-saving units to care for babies born too soon

This front page of The Daily Telegraph newspaper motivated readers to do something to help the thousands of babies born premature or sick get the best possible standard of care.

24 August 1979

A dad calls for urgent action to save vulnerable babies.

In response to the article, a letter from Mr Allan Chilvers appeared in The Telegraph.

Shocked by what he had read, he appealed for others to join him in setting up a society to buy life-saving equipment and to pay for training for specialist staff.

7 November 1979

Parents set up the first national charity for babies in neonatal care.

Unable to cope with the volume of responses to his letter, Mr Chilvers handed over to two mums who’d experienced difficult births to take the lead. Susanna Cheal OBE and Joanna Bertorelli scheduled the first meeting of the group.

At this meeting, Baby Life Support Systems (Bliss) was born.


First donation to Bliss is made.


The amount of Bliss' first donation


The amount Bliss raised in the first five years

82 hospitals

received specialised neonatal equipment in first five years

Since this first gift, donations from supporters have helped Bliss achieve so much for babies born premature or sick.


UK is falling behind other countries in reducing neonatal death.

Within a few months of Bliss’ founding, two reports were published which highlighted why urgent investment needed to be made into neonatal care. The Short and Walker Reports found that the rate of neonatal mortality was falling in the UK at a lower rate than other developed countries. The reports recommended that more specialist intensive care units were needed.

First Bliss Campaigners march on Downing Street.

In response to the findings of the Short and Walker Reports, Bliss campaigners pushed an incubator up Downing Street and delivered a petition calling on the government to invest in neonatal services.


Bliss funds training to give more babies access to specialist care.

To fill the gaps in government funding, Bliss stepped in to address some of the staff recruitment problems.

Using donations from generous supporters, the Bliss Fellowship funded one year of a junior doctor’s training in neonatology at University College Hospital London.

Bliss also funded nurse tutors to pioneer regional nurse training. Training healthcare professionals remains a key area of Bliss’ work.

Since 2016, over 1000 healthcare professionals have attended a Bliss Study Day to build their skills in delivering family-centered developmental care.


Parents get emotional support on the unit.

Bliss launched a new programme to help parents on the unit. Blisslink was a team of volunteers based in hospitals offering practical and emotional support to parents of babies on the neonatal unit.

Volunteers continue to play a vital role in Bliss’ work and our Bliss Champions continue to support parents in this way today.


Join Bliss’ amazing community of volunteers to give vital support to families on neonatal units across the UK.
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Group of mums and babies with Bliss volunteers sitting around a table in a play area


Surfactant and neonatal steroids revolutionise treatment for babies.

Both of these treatments were introduced onto the neonatal unit for the first time. This marked a significant turning point in neonatal care, ensuring that more babies could be cared for and survive.


EPICure study launches to understand long-term impacts of prematurity.

To find out more about the long-term impact for children born prematurely, a team of researchers started a study called EPICure. This Bliss-supported study looked at all babies born before 26 weeks and followed them throughout key stages of their childhood. The study was repeated in 2006 and helped shed light on how survival rates for premature babies have changed over time.


Blue Peter appeal raises £2.3 million for Bliss.

The 38th Blue Peter Appeal raised a staggering £2.3 million, with people all over the UK organising bring and buy sales to help babies in neonatal care.

The appeal allowed Bliss to donate life-saving equipment to 56 hospitals across the country. A further 60 hospitals also benefited from transport ambulances and resuscitation centres.

It was the second time Bliss was chosen for the Blue Peter Appeal, the first time was in 1989.


Bliss campaign secures £6.5 million investment into neonatal care.

A Bliss media campaign highlighted the reliance of neonatal units on charities for equipment. The demand for equipment at the time far exceeded what both Bliss and local neonatal charities could provide. Bliss campaigners helped secure an extra £6.5m for neonatal intensive care from the government.

From this point, Bliss phased out its involvement in equipment donations altogether.

Instead the charity continued to focus on providing parents with information and support, campaigning for changes to Government policy, funding research and providing training for healthcare professionals – all of which continue today.


More babies are born in the right hospital for their needs.

Bliss was significantly involved in a Department of Health review into neonatal care. The review recommended network working; where local hospitals work closely together in a network to tailor every baby’s care to their level of need.

This led to £72 million of investment to assist with introduction of neonatal networks.


First Bliss Baby Report improves understanding of neonatal care.

The Bliss Baby Report series was introduced as a way to monitor which areas of neonatal care require more investment and resource. Baby Reports have become a vital tool in Bliss campaigning.

Bliss sets out rights for babies in neonatal care.

The Bliss Baby Charter was launched as a short document setting out the rights of babies who receive neonatal care.

It was the starting point for one of Bliss’ key programmes of work. Today the Baby Charter has evolved into a practical guide to help hospitals provide the best possible family-centred care for premature and sick babies, an approach which places the parents at the centre of their baby’s care.

89% of the UK’s neonatal units now participate in the Bliss Baby Charter.


NHS Taskforce set up thanks to Bliss Baby Report.

This comprehensive review of neonatal care was established thanks to the findings of the first Bliss Baby Report. The review led to the publication of ‘The Toolkit for High Quality Neonatal Services' by the Department of Health in 2009 which has helped raise the standard of neonatal care services across the UK.

Through funding and research, Bliss has made a distinctive contribution to service improvement in England.

The Toolkit for High Quality Neonatal Services' (2009) Sir Bruce Keogh


Bliss creates dedicated charity for babies in Scotland.

Bliss Scotland was established to provide support to premature and sick babies and their families across Scotland.

A few years later, Lady Sarra Hoy became a Bliss Scotland Ambassador after giving birth to her son Callum 11 weeks early.

Today 10 out of 15 neonatal units in Scotland have a Bliss volunteer providing vital emotional support on the neonatal unit.


Bliss creates new handbook to guide parents through neonatal care.

The Bliss Family Handbook was produced with the assistance of parents and healthcare professionals to ensure parents felt informed and involved on the neonatal unit. Bliss’ information remain a trusted resource for parents of premature and sick babies with our latest publication, About Neonatal Care, written especially to answer the questions parents might have when they first arrive on the unit.


It’s not a game – Bliss reveals extra cost to families in neonatal care.

It's not a game report front page

The report found that families across Britain spent an average of an additional £282 a week while their baby was in neonatal care.

This report became crucial to Bliss’ campaign work to improve hospital facilities.

Thanks to the report, the government issued guidance to NHS hospitals in England telling them that parking should be free or reduced for those visiting babies in neonatal care.


Babies benefit from award-winning care.

Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton, became the first neonatal unit in the UK to receive a Bliss award for the way they involve parents in babies’ care.

The Bliss Baby Charter Accreditation rewards parental involvement on the neonatal unit, due to its proven benefits for babies.

Since 2016, three other neonatal units have received Bliss Baby Charter Accreditation: Queen Alexandra Hospital Portsmouth, Frimley Park Hospital and Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

The Bliss Baby Charter has helped the team to make the necessary improvements to provide the highest standards of family-centred care.

Lisa Leppard, Princess Anne Hospital


Parents in Scotland get help with cost of food and travel.

The Scottish Government created a £1.5 million neonatal expenses fund to support parents of babies in neonatal care with travel and food expenses following Bliss Scotland campaigning.

This means families in Scotland are now entitled to claim reimbursement for food and travel expenses while their baby is in neonatal care.

Parents get paid bereavement leave for the first time.

Bliss helps shape new workplace rights to give paid leave to those who have suffered the loss of a child.

This means that parents whose baby or child sadly dies, are entitled to paid leave from work for the first time. This change is expected to come into force in 2020.

Bliss funds research to reduce babies’ pain.

Bliss launched a new Neonatal Research Fund in 2018. The first award was granted to a pioneering project which aims to understand pain in premature babies.

A research team from the University of Oxford will receive a £145,987 grant from Bliss, over three years, to fund a project which seeks to improve the measurement and treatment of pain.

The aim is and to ensure every baby's journey in neonatal care is as painless as possible.


Bliss launches campaign to extend parental leave.

Bliss has long campaigned for parents to receive extra parental leave and pay when their baby needs neonatal care.

In 2019, Bliss research found that 66% of dads were forced to return to work while their baby was still in neonatal care.

Since then, the government has launched a consultation to help shape a potential Neonatal Leave and Pay entitlement for parents of premature and sick babies. This is our biggest opportunity yet to secure this much needed change, make sure you have your say.

Help the next generation of babies

For the last 40 years parents, especially dads, have had to return to work while their baby is in neonatal care. Today we are closer than ever to parents getting extra paid time off to be with their baby.
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