Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and UUP Leader, has called on the entire community to “support the campaign to have more much-needed neonatal nurses and doctors appointed across Northern Ireland”.
Assemblyman Swann issued his call following the launch at Stormont of the Tiny Life report into shortages in neonatal provision in Northern Ireland.
Mr Swann said: “I totally support the Tiny Life report, and I am speaking from personal experience as my son Evan spent the first 13 months of his life in hospital. Based on this personal experience as a parent, I fully support the recommendations contained in this valuable report.”
Mr Swann’s appeal to the community came as the TinyLife and Bliss joined forces to launch the Northern Ireland Baby Report at Stormont for MLAs, clinicians, policymakers and families.
Assemblyman Swann added: “Neonatal services in Northern Ireland are overstretched and under incredible pressure. If these issues are not addressed, the safety of the smallest and sickest babies could be at risk.
“The findings of new research published in the Bliss and TinyLife Northern Ireland Baby Report 2018 show that there is a shortage of neonatal nurses and doctors, meaning units are not able to ensure the best safety standards and highest quality of care for premature and sick babies all of the time.
“This is leading staff to have to make difficult decisions, such as closing cots to new admissions, in an attempt to manage their activity safely when working with too few resources. The hard reality, too, is that we need a working Executive at Stormont to ensure that these much-needed recommendations contained in this report do not gather dust on a shelf, but are actually implemented in practice.”
Mr Swann said the key findings of the report included:
Over half of neonatal units do not have enough nurses in post to meet minimum standards for providing safe, high quality care.
55 per cent of the nursing shortfall can be attributed to inadequate funding for recruitment.
Five out of seven neonatal units in Northern Ireland have difficulties with at least one aspect of nurse training and development.
One issue raised by some units was that there are not enough staff to cover shifts to send nurses on enhanced training courses.
Five out of seven neonatal units have no dedicated access to a mental health professional, and three neonatal units are unable to provide access to any trained mental health professional at all, including by referral to an external service.
Four out of seven neonatal units in Northern Ireland do not have enough medical staff in post to meet minimum standards.
Four out of six units are unable to provide accommodation for all parents of critically ill babies.
No units in Northern Ireland have a neonatal community outreach service to support families after discharge.
Mr Swann said: “Given these alarming statistics, I urge the two big parties to set aside their petty differences and for the sake of our young babies, to reach an agreement so that a Stormont health minister can radically address this growing crisis in neonatal services in Northern Ireland.”