Premature babies missing crucial two-year check-ups

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Almost half of very premature babies are not receiving vital developmental checks, figures show.

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Nearly half of all premature babies are not receiving vital checks, an audit shows

Babies born more than ten weeks early should have a routine check at age two for signs of possible complications, such as cerebral palsy, visual impairment and intellectual development delay.

Yet a neonatal audit has found no evidence for the vital check-up in 46 per cent of cases.

According to the audit, in many instances, neonatal units may not be doing this or they are failing to record the details of the two-year follow-up consultations, even when they have taken place.

The National Neonatal Audit Programme (NNAP) report warns that neonatal units are either not recording details of the check or failing to have the consultations altogether.

A leading doctor for the NNAP highlights how essential the checks are, as premature babies’ health problems can often extend into childhood.

Dr Sam Oddie said, ‘When a baby is born very prematurely, they are born before they are physically ready for life outside the womb. This means they often have health problems, which can extend into childhood

'To ensure they are developing as they should be, it is crucial that these babies are monitored closely from birth, at least for the first couple of years. So the fact 46 per cent of babies had no developmental data entered at age two, is a major concern.

‘Not only does this create added anxiety for parents about whether their child’s developmental milestones are being met, it also adds pressure to the health service as such children will need to begin a new pathway through the NHS.’

Communication worries were also identified in the report, with 11 per cent of families not having a recorded consultation with a senior member of clinical staff within 24 hours of their baby’s admission to a neonatal unit.  

The NNAP recommends units booking in the checks as babies are discharged as well as reviewing their communications and recording systems.

Experts analysed data from over 86,000 newborns in England and Wales who received neonatal care in 2014, so over 40,000 children could be affected.

  • Read the full report here
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