Welsh hospitals desperately need more neonatal nurses to ensure the highest possible standard of care is being provided to premature and newborn babies.
A new report from the charity Bliss reveals a significant shortage of nurses who are specially trained in neonatal care throughout Wales.
Bliss found that of the 11 neonatal units in the country, only two employed a nurse with a neonatal qualification and led to the estimation that 87 extra neonatal nurses are needed across the Welsh units before adequate standards are met.
In addition, there are three intensive premature baby care units in the country, but none of these had enough nurses available to meet nurse-to-baby ratio standards between 2014 and 2015. One of the units needed 24 extra staff members to meet targets, while the other two required an additional 18 and 11 neonatal nurses respectively.
Healthcare experts are concerned that unless significant investment is put towards hiring locum or full-time nurses with neonatal qualifications or experience in the near future, premature babies born in Wales and their families may not be able to access the best possible standard of care for their potentially complex needs.
Caroline Davey, chief executive of Bliss, commented: "It is clear that neonatal services in Wales are under extreme pressure and staff are being spread too thin. Without urgent action, the gap between the standards required and the care provided will widen even further.
"Bliss' new findings serve as a stark warning to the Welsh government and health boards that they must provide additional investment to ensure that national standards for neonatal services are met."
In response to the charity's report, a Welsh government spokesman highlighted that improvements have been made across all of the country's health boards since 2008, but Bliss believes there is still a lot more that can be done to increase the standard of neonatal care, with more opportunities for nurses with this specific expertise set to be created along the way.
Written by James Puckle
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