Care baby units 'at breaking point'

Special care baby units across the UK are "near breaking point", a report says.

A lack of funding has left units struggling more than ever to reach minimum staffing levels in the last year, according to the baby charity Bliss.

Only a handful of units were able to meet the minimum recommended staffing levels, with many forced to refuse new admissions for considerable periods of time.

Mothers and babies may be forced to travel long distances in search of a unit with the appropriate facilities to care for them, the charity said.

Bliss's new study - Too little too late - are we ensuring the best start for babies born too soon? - was based on surveys of 195 neonatal units across the UK.

It found that units were forced to refuse new admissions for an average total of two weeks out of a six-month period.

A total of 10% closed their doors to new admissions for eight weeks or more over six months.

The study also found that most units were operating above the 70% average occupancy level recommended by experts. One in eight of the most specialist units operated at an average occupancy of 100% or more for a whole year.

Although some new nurses have been recruited, the service is still 2,600 nurses short of the recommended number, the study said.

The report said demand for care was outstripping supply and the care and safety of babies was in danger of being compromised.

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