Cuts to neonatal nursing putting sick babies at risk


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Hospital units which care for Britain's sickest babies are facing cuts in nursing staff which are putting lives at risk, a survey has found.

A third of neonatal units in England are making nursing posts redundant, freezing vacancies or downgrading positions, according to the survey by the charity Bliss. The Royal College of Nursing said it was "deeply shocking" that posts should be cut when extra nurses were needed.

Last year, Bliss found neonatal units were more than 1,000 nurses short of the minimum staffing level set by the Department of Health. But, instead of increasing recruitment, the charity has found that a further 140 posts have been cut as the NHS seeks £20bn of savings within existing budgets over the next four years.

"This comes after promises from the Government that nursing jobs would not be lost and that frontline services would not be affected in the drive to create efficiency savings," Bliss says.

Neonatal units provide care to the smallest babies, some born extremely premature, and need high levels of expert staff. Yet one in 10 of the units said their training and education budgets had been cut and that they were unable to release nurses for training due to lack of staff. One in five units said they expected to make further staff cuts over the coming year.

Andy Cole, chief executive of Bliss, said: "The lives of England's sickest babies are [being put] at risk by needless cuts to the neonatal nursing workforce."

Anne Milton, the Public Health minister, said: "We want to make sure that sick and premature babies get consistently high-quality neonatal care. NHS hospitals in England must ensure that they have the right number of qualified staff to provide this. Our modernisation plans will cut the costs of administration by one-third over this Parliament, and every penny will be reinvested into frontline services."