Bliss responds to the release of The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit 2019

Posted on July 11, 2019

Nurse caring for baby in incubator

The National Maternity and Perinatal Audit (NMPA) has been released today. This snapshot of maternity and neonatal services across England, Scotland and Wales shows that while there has been some progress in the availability of services for mothers and babies who have more complex needs, persistent challenges remain in ensuring neonatal units have the facilities they need to ensure parents are able to be with their baby.

Despite a small improvement in the number of neonatal units providing at least one parent accommodation room per intensive care cot, increasing from 49 per cent in 2017 to 54 per cent in 2019, the proportion of neonatal intensive care units (NICU) meeting the standard remains concerningly low. Only 18 per cent of NICUs were able to provide accommodation in line with recommendations, which is particularly concerning because these units care for the most critically ill babies who are most likely to have extended stays in neonatal care. For families, the lack of appropriate accommodation is a significant barrier to them being able to be present on the unit and able to fully participate in their baby’s care and decision making.

However, there are also welcome service improvements outlined within the report with 83 per cent of sites now offering transitional care. This service is usually provided jointly by maternity and neonatal professionals and supports mothers to provide care to their baby, if they require some additional clinical support after being born, minimising avoidable separation between mothers and babies.

Bliss Chief Executive, Justin Irwin said: ‘’These findings highlight that despite some important improvements to maternity and neonatal services over the past two years, there has been an extremely disappointing lack of progress towards ensuring parents with a critically ill baby can stay close by their side.

‘’While it is welcome to see more hospitals providing transitional care, separation of mothers and babies who require neonatal care is still the norm. We know that poor access to accommodation means many families have no choice but to pay for somewhere to stay close to the neonatal unit or travel long distances to visit their baby in hospital. For some families, these barriers are insurmountable. They are unable to be with their baby daily – preventing them from participating in care-giving and decision making for their baby. This goes against the evidence that babies born premature or sick do best when their parents are involved at the heart of their care on the neonatal unit.

‘’We welcome the NHS Long-Term Plan commitment to invest in improved parental accommodation. We hope today’s report will provide renewed focus to ensure this commitment is fulfilled, so every parent of a critically ill baby can be by their side when they need their parents most.‘’

Read the report in full here.