More than 1,000 referrals to admit very sick or premature babies to neonatal units were rejected in the last year due to a lack of beds, data obtained by HSJ has revealed.
Nineteen trusts turned down a total of 2,721 requests to admit a baby to their level three neonatal intensive care unit – those for the most serious cases – specifically due to a lack of a bed, between 2019-20 and 2021-22, with 1,345 such refusals taking place in 2021-22.
Experts told HSJ the issue – which appears to have led to families having to travel very long distances from their homes – was due to a shortage of staff, especially nurses, meaning insufficient beds (normally referral to as cots in neonatal care) can be opened.
A British Association of Perinatal Medicine spokesperson told HSJ: “Neonatal intensive care units should run at less than 80% occupancy on average to allow for peaks and troughs in activity. There are a significant number which are having to run over that capacity limit which can cause flow problems – we’re a bit like an A&E that can’t stack the ambulances outside – once the baby is there, it has to come and we’re not able to control those admissions.”
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Source: HSJ, 1 December 2022