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Charity calls for better parental support in neonatal units

Thousands of parents of sick or premature babies are being prevented from having close involvement in their child's hospital care because of a lack of support services, a new report has found.
Baby

Thousands of parents of sick or premature babies are being prevented from having close involvement in their child's hospital care because of a lack of support services, a new report has found.

Charity Bliss said that for these babies, it is vital that parents take a 'lead role' in the care of their children.

Skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and comfort holding are just some of the ways parents can help their babies, the charity said.

Lack of facilities

But many are being prevented from doing so because of a lack of facilities at the hospitals where their child is being treated, according to Bliss.

A new report from the organisation found wide variation, and gaps in the provision of services across England, such as a lack of overnight accommodation, kitchen space, and financial support.

The report states that fewer than 1 in

Thousands of parents of sick or premature babies are being prevented from having close involvement in their child's hospital care because of a lack of support services, a new report has found.

Charity Bliss said that for these babies, it is vital that parents take a 'lead role' in the care of their children.

Skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding and comfort holding are just some of the ways parents can help their babies, the charity said.

Lack of facilities 

But many are being prevented from doing so because of a lack of facilities at the hospitals where their child is being treated, according to Bliss.

A new report from the organisation found wide variation, and gaps in the provision of services across England, such as a lack of overnight accommodation, kitchen space, and financial support.

The report states that fewer than 1 in 5 neonatal incentive care units have enough overnight rooms for parents of critically ill babies.

Need for change 

It found that 40% of units lack kitchen facilities, necessary so that parents don’t have to leave wards to eat, while more than a third offer no help with meal costs.

In addition, on-site parking can cost up to £72 per day, despite government recommendations that it be reduced or made free in such circumstances.

The report, called Families kept apart: barriers to parents’ involvement in their baby’s hospital care, makes a series of recommendations on how to help families, including plans to combat the shortage of accommodation, better facilities for parents and a review into parking charges for parents.

All the difference 

RCN professional lead for children and young people’s nursing Fiona Smith said: ‘It’s vital that all services provide the facilities for parents to spend time with their babies in neonatal units, as their hands-on care improves outcomes for babies and families.

‘It can also reduce the time babies need to spend in hospital, alleviating pressures on often overburdened services.

‘Simple things like accommodation and affordable parking can make all the difference – and should be available to all.’

Working together

Evidence shows early, hands-on parental involvement improves bonding. When a baby dies, good services allow parents a safe, supportive environment in which to grieve.

An NHS England spokesperson said: 'We will continue to work closely with Bliss and others to improve neonatal services, ensuring all premature and sick babies receive the best possible care.'


Further information

Families kept apart: barriers to parents’ involvement in their baby’s hospital care

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