Cot shortage for miracle babies

SERIOUS concerns were today being raised about neo-natal care in the region as it emerged that families were having to travel hundreds of miles to visit young babies fighting for life.

CALLS have today been made to invest more in the care of Ipswich's sickest babies.

Nurses and doctors working at Ipswich Hospital's special care baby unit have been praised as brilliant and dedicated.

Yet today concerns have been raised about the number of premature babies and their families who face long journeys because the hospital is unable to care for them.

The concerns come on the day that figures have shown that Ipswich Hospital's neo-natal unit was forced to close its doors to new admissions on 113 days out of 182 between April and September this year.

This includes a period in May when the unit was shut for several days after a baby on the ward contracted the rotavirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

A baby boom has meant that the hospital has now invested in six new senior neonatal nurses to cope with the numbers and a national review is under way to address the pressures.

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The hospital's neonatal unit provides level two care, so babies born at less than 28 weeks or with serious complications need to be sent to more specialist centres such as those in Cambridge or Norwich.

And sometimes mums need to travel even further, such as Sue Hammond who was taken to Kent to deliver her baby, Andrew.

Today Miss Hammond said: “They need to have facilities in Ipswich.

“The staff in Ipswich were lovely. It is just unfortunate that the funding is not there for them.”

A spokesman for The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust said: "We would like to say thank you to all the mothers and their relatives who are thanking the hospital for the care they received for themselves and their babies.

"Of course we would like to be able to care for absolutely every baby whose mother chooses us as their first choice hospital but in order to safeguard levels of care this is not always possible.

"In some instances, when babies are very young or very seriously ill it is vital for their care that they go to a tertiary centre. This is in-line with national guidelines which all hospitals across the country must follow.

“To clarify, this does not mean Ipswich Hospital is unable to stabilise and care for these babies, it does mean the babies will get the best levels of round-the-clock care.”

The spokesman added that no-one can predict with accuracy when and where the demand for the hospital's 20 neonatal cots will be, which is why neonatal units across the region work together.

He said: “We have been very busy lately, largely due to the rising birth rate nationally which is putting pressure on neonatal units everywhere.”