As most of you will know, Bliss is a charity close to my heart Bliss supports parents and babies who are born too soon, too small, too sick, not just premature babies, and baby that needs special care. I first heard of Bliss when I subscribed to a little magazine called Candis. It's a little like the Reader's Digest, but it supports charities like Bliss (it also has very good interviews and recipes which is why I subscribed!) Every issue though, they did a feature on Bliss, and I would marvel at the small babies, and the amazing work Bliss does. Bliss does two things, it provides information and support to families and it campaigns on behalf of the NHS's smallest patients.
I used Bliss on a few occasions when Joseph was in hospital. At times I didn't understand the terminology being used and the implications of what was being said, and because of my self imposed ban on Googling such things, I would ring Bliss. I also used its Parents 4 Parents services, where I was put in touch with a mum who had had a similar experience to myself. It was then I started becoming very aware of the postcode lottery and how variable care is depending on where in the country you happen to have your baby.
Today is the release of the annual Bliss Baby Report, which you can read in its entirity here. It makes for interesting, if somewhat unsuprising reading. There is a chronic shortage of nurses, experienced neonatal nurses. The shortfall is over 1 000. Now I have first hand experience of how wonderful these nurses are. It takes a special sort of nurse to manage these very small babies. I also have had first had experience of what happend when there are not enough nurses on the unit.
The report also talks about units being over capacity at times, or shut at times to new admissions, both of which happened on our unit whilst Joseph was there.
This is a time of great economic hardship nationally, and the NHS has a lot of demands and pressures upon it. However this shortage is not a new thing. Babies cannot expect the same level of ITU nursing care as a child or an adult. A ratio of 1:1 is the benchmark for Intensive Care Units for everyone regardless of age, but for premature babies it often does not happen. I have to say though, in my experience, Joseph did, at most times, have 1:1 care.
The other thing that is clear from this report is the pressure and strain families are under when they have a child in a special care baby unit.
My next two posts will explore the financial aspects of having a premature baby, and the practice of transferring babies.