Parents of vulnerable babies should not be restricted from spending time with their newborn child while in hospital and must be instructed in how to care for them, a specialist medical group has warned.
The neonatal expert advisory group, which was set up by the Scottish Government, has issued recommendations to improve care for 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 were unable to be with their child.
The report recommended 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.
Parents’ cultural and religious preferences, needs and values should be taken into consideration to provide the highest possible standard of care, the report said, and parents should be given support and encouragement.
Public health minister Michael Matheson said all children in Scotland deserved the best possible start in life.
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 were already meeting many of the requirements of quality of care, vigilant monitoring was needed to maintain 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.”
Andy Cole, chief executive of Bliss, a charity for premature and vulnerable babies, said the report was “a positive step” towards improving the care of the 8,000 babies born in need of specialist hospital treatment each year in Scotland.
He said: “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, chairman of the neonatal expert advisory group, said the framework was likely to be an important working document for clinicians and managers.
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.”