The story of the Baby Charter

Baby in incubator on neonatal unit with nurse in background attending to the baby

Before the creation of the Baby Charter, many neonatal units could see the importance of family-centred care, but they struggled to put it into practice.

Now, 93% of units are using the Baby Charter framework and specialist support from Bliss to make positive changes for babies and families.

When Bliss launched the Baby Charter in 2005, it was the first time that the rights of a baby born premature or sick had been clearly set down.

The first iteration of the Baby Charter was seven simple statements that encapsulated the care, respect and support that the most vulnerable babies should receive. These core principles of family-centred care – known today as the seven standards – were developed by Bliss together with an expert panel of multi-disciplinary health professionals.

In 2009, we then published a fuller set of standards that set out how the Baby Charter’s principles could be made a reality on neonatal units. This detailed framework helped units to assess and audit their service, and became a key tool in delivering excellent family-centred care and evidencing the positive difference it makes.

There is a difference between thinking that we are doing something well and being able to prove that we are through a rigorous, externally validated process.

St Peter's Neonatal Unit

The positive impact of the Baby Charter didn’t go unnoticed and it has become a nationally recognised tool referenced in the NHS England Neonatal Critical Care Review, Neonatal Critical Care Transformation Review, the BAPM Quality Indicators and the RCPCH QI resource map, as well as being endorsed by the Scottish Government and included in the All Wales Neonatal Standards.

This Bliss Baby Charter is now the UK standard for developing, measuring and improving family-centred care, and achieving Bliss Baby Charter accreditation is an esteemed marker of quality.

The Baby Charter is recognised in national standards for providing safe, high quality services, with a culture of continuous development - precisely the high standards to which we aspire.

St Peter's Neonatal Unit

Continuous improvement is at the heart of the Baby Charter and in 2019-20 we updated key elements to reflect best practice and provide more detail to help units meet the standards, no matter the size of their unit or the resources available.

Our new digital platform also makes it easier for units to submit evidence and get tailored feedback from Bliss, and we have introduced different levels of award to recognise the progress and commitment of every unit working hard to implement and improve family-centred care.

It's easy to focus on what we do well, but we must determine what families need not what we think they need… The Charter brings us back to why we're doing this work: the baby and the family.

Royal Devon and Exeter Neonatal Unit

Today, 93% of neonatal units are taking part in the Bliss Baby Charter and this gives Bliss a unique view of neonatal practice across the UK. By sharing this best practice in the neonatal community we hope to inspire even more changes and see more babies benefiting from their parents playing an active role in their neonatal care.