I understand that parents want to be with their children as much as possible at what is an incredibly difficult and stressful time. While we have some of the best neonatal care in the world in this country, I agree that there is too much variability in services between hospitals and regions.
The Department of Health’s Toolkit for High-Quality Neonatal Services, published in 2009, states that dedicated facilities should be available for parents and families of babies receiving neonatal care. I would like to see those units that currently offer the very best care spreading their expertise across the country. A co-ordinated approach is required from the Government, the NHS and local managers.
I pay tribute to the charity Bliss which does excellent work in offering emotional and practical support to families for the duration of their stay in neonatal care. I commend the charity for its tireless efforts in campaigning for better neonatal services for families and in its ambition to ensure that every baby born premature or sick in the UK has the best chance of survival and quality of life.
I know that research undertaken by Bliss has found that more than a third of all neonatal units in England do not have dedicated accommodation for parents of critically ill children. The Royal College of Nursing has said that it is “vital” that all services provide the facilities for parents to spend time with their babies in neonatal units as this can improve outcomes for babies and families.
NHS England’s Maternity Transformation Programme is carrying out a review of neonatal services and a report is due in September. The Government has confirmed that the review has completed its data gathering stage and will be working with Bliss and other stakeholders to develop recommendations for service improvement, including the support and facilities for parents. I will be following the report and its recommendations closely.