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Hospitals need to reduce separation of mothers and ill babies, report finds

NHS Improvement has published a resource to help reduce the number of babies admitted to neonatal units. 
Newborn_separation_tile_iStock.jpg

NHS Improvement has published a resource to help reduce the number of babies admitted to neonatal units.

The analysis from NHS Improvement , with input from the Royal College of Midwives, showed that in some cases, newborns were unnecessarily admitted to neonatal units for common health complaints.

Many of these cases could be treated in a different setting, where mothers and their babies need not be separated, the report found.

NHS Improvement has also issued a patient safety alert to maternity and neonatal services highlighting the new analysis and other resources to help reduce the number of babies admitted to neonatal units.

The authors found that while some

NHS Improvement has published a resource to help reduce the number of babies admitted to neonatal units. 


Many cases of newborns being admitted to neonatal units could have been managed without
needing to separate mother and infant, a report found. Picture: iStock

The analysis from NHS Improvement, with input from the Royal College of Midwives, showed that in some cases, newborns were unnecessarily admitted to neonatal units for common health complaints.  

Many of these cases could be treated in a different setting, where mothers and their babies need not be separated, the report found.

NHS Improvement has also issued a patient safety alert to maternity and neonatal services highlighting the new analysis and other resources to help reduce the number of babies admitted to neonatal units.

The authors found that while some admissions were necessary, large numbers of cases could have been managed without needing to separate mother and infant.

Added stress

Between 2011-14 the number of babies admitted to neonatal units increased by 24%, with a further 6% increase in 2015, despite a fall in the overall number of live full-term births.

It examined the biggest causes for babies under 28 days needing to be admitted to hospital, including for hypoglycaemia, jaundice and breathing problems.

Between 20-30% of all full-term babies admitted to neonatal units for these common healthcare problems did not receive any intervention that could not have been provided in a setting that kept mother and baby together.

NHS Improvement clinical director for maternity and children Birte Harlev-Lam said: ‘When a baby needs additional care shortly after birth, separating them from their mother causes stress for mother and baby, which can also impact on a baby’s ability to breastfeed or regulate its temperature.

Staff investment ‘crucial’

‘NHS staff in maternity units work hard to provide new mums with safe, quality and compassionate care, but we want to make sure that they are supported to provide additional care without needing to separate mother and baby if it’s avoidable.’

RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith said: ‘It is important to keep a mother and her baby together wherever possible.

‘However, identifying when a baby needs the care of specialist neonatal services requires a knowledgeable, skilled and well-resourced midwifery team to understand when this is the appropriate course of action.

‘It is crucial to invest in the continuing professional development of staff to ensure the best care is given to mothers and their babies.’


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