Hospitals are struggling to meet demand for neonatal care thanks to a “serious” shortage of nurses, according to a group of British MPs.
Neonatal services provide care to babies born prematurely or with an illness or condition which requires specialist care.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee said that, last year, each of England’s 178 neonatal units had to close their doors once a week on average and warned of “major implications for patient safety”.
The cross-party group of MPs, writing in their report “Caring for Vulnerable Babies: The reorganisation of neonatal services in England”, concluded that the 2003 decision to reorganise the units into 23 geographical networks had delivered some benefits but that more needed to be done.
It said that two areas had failed to fully implement the changes, and a third of units operated above the recommended occupancy rate of 70%.
The committee said there was a need for a “national action plan to address neonatal nurse shortages” after it found there were three vacancies per unit for nurses qualified in neonatal care.
“High occupancy rates could have major implications for patient safety due to increased risk of infection or inadequate staffing levels,” they warned.
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