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Three quarters of neonatal units in Scotland do not have enough nurses, charity warns

Three quarters of neonatal units in Scotland do not have enough nurses to meet minimum safe staffing levels, according to a charity for premature babies.
Neonatal_ITU-iStock.jpg

Three quarters of neonatal units in Scotland do not have enough nurses to meet minimum safe staffing levels, according to a charity for premature babies.

Bliss Scotland was responding to the Scottish governments publication of its two-year review of maternity and neonatal services, called The Best Start .

It claims a lack of money was responsible for 83% of the staffing shortfall identified by the review team, chaired by NHS Forth Valley chief executive Jane Grant.

Ms Grants report makes 76 recommendations to overhaul services, including redesigning the neonatal care model and creating up to five intensive care units.

The reviewers visited all 15 neonatal units in the country and noted that recruitment and

Three quarters of neonatal units in Scotland do not have enough nurses to meet minimum safe staffing levels, according to a charity for premature babies.


A total of 15 neonatal units in the country were found to have staffing issues that
were of ‘real concern’. Picture: iStock

Bliss Scotland was responding to the Scottish government’s publication of its two-year review of maternity and neonatal services, called The Best Start.

It claims a lack of money was responsible for 83% of the staffing shortfall identified by the review team, chaired by NHS Forth Valley chief executive Jane Grant.

Ms Grant’s report makes 76 recommendations to overhaul services, including redesigning the neonatal care model and creating up to five intensive care units.

The reviewers visited all 15 neonatal units in the country and noted that recruitment and retention in a number of staff groups was of ‘real concern’, as was the age profile of the midwifery and neonatal nursing workforce.

Babies ‘at risk’

Despite those concerns, Bliss claims only two of the units have a plan in place to recruit additional nurses to meet the standards.

The charity’s chief executive Caroline Lee-Davey said: ‘Our report shows that neonatal units across Scotland are understaffed and under-resourced, and that this is putting babies at risk.

‘While we welcome the government’s progressive vision for Scottish neonatal services, services for premature and sick babies are already overstretched, and any plan for improvements must provide sufficient funding to address the problems that exist now.’

Scotland’s health secretary Shona Robison said: ‘This review has provided an excellent opportunity to identify best practice, and also outlines where we can make improvements to our services.

Implementation group 

‘The clinical evidence shows us that, for the most critically ill babies, delivering highly specialist care in up to five enhanced neonatal intensive care units will ensure better outcomes for them and their families.

‘Our next steps will be to set up an implementation group to develop how best we can take forward the recommendations in partnership with the NHS and with service users.’

Bliss’ figures show around 5,800 babies (one in ten) a year in Scotland require lifesaving neonatal care, because they are born either premature (46%) or sick (54%).

The government review was commissioned in February 2015, the same year Bliss published a report into English neonatal services which found 64% of units did not have enough nurses.


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