Wales' hospital neonatal care 'overstretched', Bliss claims

new born baby in an incubator Image copyright Thinkstock

Neonatal services across Wales are overstretched and under pressure with the safety of vulnerable babies at risk, according to a charity.

Bliss said there was a shortage of neonatal nurses and doctors, and safety standards were not being met.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) joined the charity in asking for more investment.

The Welsh Government said £85m was being spent on training staff.

In a report published on Wednesday, Bliss claimed:

  • Only two out of 10 neonatal units had enough nurses to staff all of their cots in line with national safety and quality standards
  • Over half of units did not have enough medical staff to meet national standards
  • None of Wales' neonatal intensive care units had enough overnight accommodation for parents to meet national standards

'Extreme pressure'

The report said "investment in staffing is desperately needed", and the Welsh Government must fund more nurse training places in child health.

Bliss chief executive Caroline Davey said: "It is clear that neonatal services in Wales are under extreme pressure and staff are being spread too thin.

"Without urgent action, the gap between the standards required and the care provided will widen even further."

Dr Mair Parry, RCPCH officer for Wales, agreed that vacancy levels are too high and supported Bliss's recommendations.

She said: "Babies in neonatal units are extremely vulnerable - they need and deserve the highest level of care. To do this, all neonatal units must meet the required service standards.

"This is only possible if they have adequate staffing levels allowing them to cope with the demand placed upon them."

A Welsh Government spokesman said there has been steady and continuing improvement in neonatal standards since 2008.

"To support the development of our workforce, we have announced an £85m package of investment in the education and training of healthcare professionals in Wales, including neonatal staff.

"The findings of the Bliss report will be used by the neonatal network to help all units reflect on, and plan, for any changes needed for the future."

Dr Jenny Calvert, of the Wales Neonatal Network, said they are working to further develop medical training in neonatology to help recruit more trainee doctors.

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