Wales lagging behind on care for premature babies

21 September 2017, 13:30

Sleeping baby

A report suggests Wales is lagging behind other parts of the UK, in some aspects of care for premature babies.

The Neonatal Audit Programme report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, found care for babies born prematurely is improving overall, but poorly babies face a postcode lottery depending on where they live in the country.

For example, it is recommended that magnesium sulphate is given to mothers likely to deliver a pre-term baby to reduce the risk of cerebral palsy. But in Wales only 32 per cent of mums received it, compared with 70 per cent in the best performing areas in England.

Wales also has the lowest rate of any area in the country for premature babies being screened for eye conditions, and the only area where less than 90 per cent of children were checked.

However, Wales did see a significant increase in the number of infants being born at the right temperature, from 56 per cent in 2015 to 67 per cent in 2016.

Dr Sam Oddie, consultant neonatologist and clinical lead for the report, said: "There is no reason why many of these measures could not be achieved far more successfully - paying attention to the clinical processes and working with the whole involved team to improve them are the keys to improvement.

"For example, we need a health care system where every baby born very early is followed up at two years.

"However, we know that 40 per cent of babies don't have any clinical information at all recorded about their health and development at two years."

But he welcomed improvements in other areas, adding: "The number of units who have made significant improvements to particular aspects of care over a 12-month period is impressive.

"It shows that progress can be made - and the positive impact on the health of these babies can be huge."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "We are pleased to see significant improvements in neonatal care in Wales thanks to the hard work and dedication of our clinical staff. 

"We also welcome the report’s recommendations on other aspects of neonatal care that could be improved upon, to ensure patients receive consistent high quality treatment.” 

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