PARENTS should not be restricted from spending time with their newborn babies while in hospital and must be instructed in how to care for them, an influential medical group has warned.
The Scottish government-founded Neonatal Expert Advisory Group (NEAG) has issued a number of recommendations to improve care for Scotland’s most vulnerable babies.
Neonatal Care in Scotland: A Quality Framework, which examined the future of services delivering
specialist hospital care to around 8,000 babies a year, also suggested that parents should be given a photograph of their baby within four hours of admission if they are unable to be together, or through the means of videolinks.
The Framework recommends that parents be provided with information and support to discuss their baby’s diagnosis and care with an experienced clinician within 24 hours of admission, or following a significant change in condition, and that care should be provided to ensure that staff with the appropriate skills are available to treat babies in units with facilities meeting their individual needs.
This involves taking the parents’ cultural and religious preferences, needs and values into consideration to provide the highest possible standard of care.
The framework places importance on supporting and encouraging new parents to give personal care to their baby, and for the NHS to cultivate person-centred neonatal units.
Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said that all children in Scotland deserved the best possible start in life, and praised the care planned for and currently provided to babies requiring neonatal services.
He said: “This new Framework will maintain and build upon the high quality service which we already have in Scotland.
“We have to ensure that our youngest patients will be cared for in the right place, at the right time by the right people with the right skills. I know the Framework has the needs of babies and their families at its very heart.”
Mr Matheson said that while neonatal services across Scotland are already meeting many of the implemented standards of quality of care, vigilant monitoring is required to maintain such high standards.
He added: “The rate of advances in caring for these most vulnerable patients, and the increasing professional and public expectations which come with each new advance, mean that maintaining excellence requires a reappraisal of our services to ensure they are as safe, sustainable and high quality as possible.”
Partner in the report Bliss Scotland Chief Executive Andy Cole said the Framework was “a positive step”
towards improving the care of the 8,000 babies born in need of specialist hospital care each year in Scotland.
He said: “We hope it will be the catalyst for much needed improvements to the care provided to babies born premature and sick and their families.
“Continued commitment of the Scottish Government and NHS Health Boards is essential to make sure implementation of the standards are a priority to improve care for Scotland’s most vulnerable babies.”
Stewart Forsyth OBE, Chair of the Neonatal Expert Advisory Group said the Framework is likely to be an important working document for clinicians and managers responsible for the planning and delivery of neonatal services in Scotland.
He added: “It is also hoped that it may be a helpful resource for parents of babies who require neonatal care, as it sets out the quality of care that they will be able to expect from neonatal services in Scotland.
“I am grateful to the members of the Neonatal Expert Advisory Group, whose knowledge and expertise were invaluable in the preparation of the Framework”.