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Nursing Resource and Neo-Natal Deaths

One of the frequent themes of this 'blog - and, of course, the work handled by JMW's Clinical Negligence department - is healthcare resourcing.

Repeated studies have suggested a link between the number of staff on duty and the workload which they have to cover and the consequences for the patients that they look after.

New research has indicated that a drop in one-to-one care provided for very ill and premature newborn babies could be connected with higher rates in the deaths of such infants.

Detailed analysis ( has found that the level of staffing fell by almost a third in just four years.

It also discovered that few neo-natal units reached the staffing ratios recommended by the British Association of Perinatal Medicine.

The Association has said that there should be one nurse for every two infants in high dependency units and one member of staff for every four children in need of special care.

Those in charge of the research have acknowledged that theirs was a relatively cold look at the available figures and not intended to be the source of any firm conclusions.

Even allowing for that sizeable caveat and without wanting to rush to a judgment based on a casual and potentially coincidental examination of the numbers, it would appear that these latest findings fit in with my observations and those of my colleagues based on these sorts of cases.

Guidelines and advice on staffing are there for a reason: to assist both nursing staff and to reassure patients.

I have found that where resourcing is inadequate, the same is often true of the healthcare provided.

It is frequently a frustration for patients and their loved ones to learn that their own outcomes could have been very much different if staffing had been slightly different.

Whilst this new research might not tend to any particular position, I would argue that it is highly suggestive and the kind of undertaking worthy of consideration by Health Service managers in an effort to prevent further unnecessary loss of newborn lives.

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