20 July 2021
Dear Ms Dorries,
RE: The need for a national neonatal safety champion
The British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) is a professional association and registered charity established in 1976 which seeks to improve standards of perinatal care by supporting all those involved in perinatal care to optimise their skills and knowledge, promote high quality, safe and innovative practice, encourage research, and speak out for the needs of babies and their families.
We currently have around 1600 members comprising neonatal consultants and trainee doctors of all grades, neonatal nurses, advanced neonatal nurse practitioners, allied health professionals and policy and management leaders. During the Covid pandemic BAPM has worked closely with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health as well as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the voluntary sector and representatives from all the UK nations to support and guide neonatal practice in these unprecedented times.
BAPM was delighted to review the updated Maternity and Neonatal Safety Champions toolkit published in February 2021, and we are fully supportive of NHS England Safety Champions, Dr Matthew Jolly (Obstetrics) and Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent (Midwifery). We are however, very disappointed that while this programme was renamed in 2020 to the Maternity and Neonatal Safety Programme there is not a named National Neonatal Safety Champion.
Reports from the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, MBRRACE-UK, Perinatal Mortality Review Tool, National Child Mortality Database, and National Neonatal Audit Programme demonstrate that there is room for improvement to ensure enhanced safety in the provision of neonatal care such as airway skills, early respiratory management, identification of sepsis and other illness and prevention of morbidity and mortality; as well as in delivering the national commitment to ensure that babies below 27 weeks gestation are born in a setting with a NICU on site.
Experience from Morecambe Bay and more recent independent investigations into maternity care highlights that to optimise outcomes for both mother and baby, maternity, obstetric and neonatal services must work together. While collaborative working across the perinatal team is the standard of practice in the majority of units across the UK, the complex systems and processes of neonatal care with their impact on target outcomes means that a profession-specific safety role is required.
Last month’s House of Commons report on ‘The Safety of Maternity Services in England’ explores inequalities in maternal and neonatal outcomes and states that ‘despite disparities being well documented for many years there has been little progress in closing the gap’. We suggest therefore that the expertise of a neonatal specialist would greatly enhance the work of Dr Jolly and Professor Dunkley-Bent, undoubtedly help to improve outcomes and ultimately help to reduce the spiralling costs of litigation to the NHS.
Our plea for a National Neonatal Safety Champion is fully supported by a number of organisations listed below. We ask that you give this matter your most serious consideration.
Dr Helen Mactier, President, British Association of Perinatal Medicine
Dr Camilla Kingdon, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Professor Neena Modi, President-Elect of the British Medical Association, President of the UK Medical Women’s Federation, Director of the Neonatal Data Analysis Unit and UK National Neonatal Research Database
Róisín McKeon-Carter, Chair, Neonatal Nurses Association
Alison Wright, Chair, Scottish Neonatal Nurses Association
Dr Louise M Page, President, British Intrapartum Care Society
Peter Davis, Scientific Committee Chair, British Paediatric Surveillance Unit
Dr Sam Oddie, Clinical Lead, National Neonatal Audit Programme
Dr Cath Harrison, Chair, Neonatal Transport Group UK
Dr Christine Kortsalioudaki, Chair, Neonatal Nutrition Network
Dr Angela Huertas-Ceballos, President, The British Association for Neonatal Neurodevelopmental Follow-up
Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive, Bliss
Jane Brewin, Chief Executive, Tommys
Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive, Sands
Nikki Roberts, Acting Chief Executive, Twins Trust
Kirsten Mitchell, Founder, Spoons
Jane Plumb, Chief Executive Group B Strep Support