Families Kept Apart

A small room with a fold-down bed.

Our new research found that for every 10 babies that need to stay overnight in neonatal care, there is only one room available for a parent to stay with them.

The issue

Neonatal units in the UK seriously lack the facilities for parents to stay overnight on or near the unit.

National standards – which only require one bed per intensive care cot – are usually unmet, meaning parents often can’t stay with their baby even if their baby is critically ill or they live a long way from the hospital.

We think this needs to change.

  • A Bliss survey in 2022 found that 87 per cent of parents who did not have access to overnight accommodation said that this stopped them from being involved in their baby’s care at least sometimes.
  • Parents described leaving their baby at night to return home as one of the hardest parts of having a baby in neonatal care.

It was very hard to walk away while she was critically ill at times but because there was nowhere to stay [at the hospital], we had no choice but to go home...

Survey respondent
  • The cost-of-living crisis is impacting families with a baby in neonatal care. Our cost-of-living crisis briefing (PDF) underscores the costs which come up during a baby's stay in the hospital.
  • The biggest reported cost is travel to and from neonatal units daily, with survey respondents spending £109 per week on average.
  • The time and cost spent travelling could be reduced for parents if they were able to stay overnight on or near the neonatal unit.

How you can help

Support our campaign

Help us ensure that no families are kept apart from their babies.
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What we have been up to

In 2017, Bliss successfully campaigned for the NHS Long Term Plan to include a commitment to invest in parent accommodation on neonatal units.

This commitment was renewed in the Three Year Delivery Plan for Maternity and Neonatal services in 2023, but has yet to be delivered.

Our Families Kept Apart campaign launched on April 16 2024. We continue to push for the investment needed to support parents to stay overnight with their baby in neonatal care. Read our news story about the campaign and see our briefing document below.

Families Kept Apart briefing (PDF)

Download a PDF file which details findings from our survey of neonatal unit accommodation across England, and recommendations to policymakers on how to make improvements.

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The information on this page was last updated on 15 April 2024.