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Thousands of referrals for sick babies turned down due to lack of beds

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.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 1 December 2022


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