Neonatal services under strain

Consultant editor of Nursing Children and Young People Doreen Crawford looks at the future for service development

 Doreen Crawford Sometimes the weight and volume of evidence attains a critical mass and forces a reaction. This has just happened after several reports highlighted the strain the neonatal service is under this year.

The charity Bliss released reports looking critically at the experiences of families in England and in Wales. Bliss also considered the state of the neonatal transport service, important as the neonatal service is configured in regional networks with the result that sometimes the sickest infants have to be transferred long distances to reach them.

Themed review

Then the Care Quality Commission (CQC) released a themed review over the summer. The CQC report looked at 3 main themes: the communication between obstetric/midwifery services and the neonatal centres when a congenital anomaly is detected by ultrasound scan, the way neonatal blood pressure is measured and managed, and the commissioning of a long-term ventilation service.

It concluded there were opportunities for improvement in all the areas considered.  

The overwhelming body of evidence suggested a stagnation of service development. This was underscored by the release of a report from the National Neonatal Audit Programme.

NHS England funded audit

The audit was led by a specialist team and funded by NHS England and the Welsh and Scottish governments.

With so many complex problems to address NHS England has created the neonatal critical care clinical reference group to make recommendations to support the delivery of a safe, sustainable and equitable model of neonatal care across England. The NTP has a wide remit and has started well.

There will be a similar requirement for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to review services. It is to be hoped that this time there is a real commitment to neonatal care.