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Neonatal Care

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what measures he is taking to replace old equipment in neonatal intensive care units; [108222](2) how many neonatal intensive care units there are; where they are based; how many beds are in each unit; and what the

(a) average and (b) greatest distance is that a baby has been transported for treatment in the last five years; [108223]

(3) when his Department's review into neonatal intensive care services is due to be published. [108225]

There were 128 national health service trusts which reported neonatal intensive care cots at 31 March 2002. Information on the units, cot numbers and location have been placed in the Library. Information on distances travelled in transferring babies for treatment is not collected centrally.The review of neonatal intensive care services, by an expert group convened by the Department, was published on 10 April. This marks the start of a consultation period on the future direction of this service. The report and background papers to the review are available on www.doh.gov.uk/nsf/neonatal.htm.The consultation will take into account the group's recommendations for a more structured, collaborative approach to care, with hospitals working closely together in formal, managed networks, to provide the safest and most effective service for mothers and babies. This would provide for a three tier system with the designation of some hospitals that are specially equipped to care for the sickest and smallest babies, with other hospitals providing high dependency care and shorter periods of special care as close to home as possible. The numbers of hospitals in each network will be for local decision but must reflect local need and-geography with the aim of providing local services for all babies, except those who need the most intensive care in designated units. The results of consultation may effect the location of designated intensive care cots, the number of which we intend to increase. As the numbers of babies requiring this sort of care are small, we would not expect that any proposed changes to the neonatal care services would have an impact on local maternity service provision.In order to assist implementation of recommendations arising from this review, we are making £20 million additional capital funding available this year, which may be used for equipment replacement as required. We are also providing an additional £12 million for running costs in 2003–04 increasing to £19,857,000 in 2004–05 and to £20 million in 2005–06.