Care for premature babies has improved in England
4 May 2012
Neonatal services in England have improved since they were reformed to increase cooperation between hospitals in 2003, according to a new study published on 4 April in the British Medical Journal and led by researchers at Imperial.
After a Department of Health review, neonatal services were organised into managed clinical networks so that clusters of hospitals providing different levels of specialist care could work in collaboration. This restructuring aimed to increase the proportion of premature babies born in a specialist care unit and reduce the number of acute (within 24 hours of birth) postnatal transfers from one hospital to another.
The researchers looked at 294 maternity and neonatal units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland between 1998 and 2000 and 146 neonatal units in England between 2009 and 2010, covering the births of 6,441 babies born at 27–28 weeks of gestation.
Between the two time periods, the proportion of babies delivered at specialist care centres increased, as did the proportion of premature babies that survived to 28 days.
However, half of premature babies are still delivered in non-specialist units, and the proportion of babies transferred between hospitals within 24 hours has increased from seven per cent to 12 per cent.
Professor Neena Modi (Medicine), who led the research, said: “The rate of preterm birth is increasing worldwide, and extremely premature babies need highly specialised neonatal intensive care immediately after they are born. Our findings show that considerably more babies are being born in environments where they get the best care compared with 10 years ago, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. In particular we are worried by the continued separation of twins and triplets, the evidence of insufficient cot capacity, and poor coordination between neonatal and maternity services”.