Date Published: 19 September 2008

Premature babies are not receiving care they deserve

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and other key stakeholders are calling for premature babies to have the same rights to care that adults receive in intensive care units. Using their professional expertise they have come together to launch a joint position statement on neonatal nurse staffing levels entitled ‘A Right to Care’.

The statement calls for a UK-wide reorganisation of neonatal services from funding to the issue of recruitment and retention of neonatal nurses.

The RCN is calling for:

  • One nurse for one baby to be the standard in all neonatal intensive care settings as recommended by the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (ii).
  • 70% of registered nurses working in intensive care environment to have specialist post-registration education in neonatal nursing care (iii).
  • Neonatal units to allow 25% time allowance for staff absences, (annual leave, sickness and training and development) to ensure that the care is not compromised due to staff shortages.

Over the last 20 years, due to medical and technological advances, there have been improved survival rates for premature and low birth weight babies, yet funding for staff and training has not kept pace with demand. Studies by Bliss (iv) have indicated that many units are often closed due to lack of specialist nursing staff, with only 4% achieving recommended staffing levels.

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter said:

Babies are one of the most vulnerable groups in society and we have to ensure that we secure increased funding and investment in specialist staff to care for them. Only then will we be able to ensure neonatal units are operating at safe levels and babies are receiving the best possible treatment. Our statement launched today should be used to focus on addressing recruitment and retention of neonatal nurses in the UK and for sustained investment in education and training.”

Andy Cole, Chief Executive at Bliss said:

We wholeheartedly agree that sick and premature babies should receive the same level of care as children and adults. The care of our most vulnerable babies continues to be compromised by a lack of qualified neonatal staff and the recruitment and training of more nurses must be a top priority for every Trust and Health Board."

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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