Facts & Figures
Recent UK wide data indicates that around one in eight babies requires some form of special care. This equates to over 80,000 babies every year.
17,000 of these babies need intensive care, often for many weeks or even months. As medical treatments continue to improve, this figure is rising all the time.
The vital care that premature and sick babies receive after birth can have a profound impact on the rest of their lives. And for families struggling to cope with having a baby in special care, this will be one of the most difficult, emotional and stressful times of their lives.
Neonatal units: Definitions and facts
There are 228 units in the UK offering neonatal intensive, high dependency or special care.
There are three levels of neonatal care. These are described in general terms below with some examples of the care that babies receive. Also indicated are the British Association of Perinatal Medicine standards for nurse to baby ratios.
For babies requiring continuous monitoring of respiration or heart rate; for babies receiving added oxygen, being tube fed, receiving phototherapy or recovering from more specialist care.
High Dependency Care (Level 2)
For babies receiving oxygen from nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) but not fulfilling any of the categories for intensive care; any baby below 1,000gms who does not fulfill any of thecategories for intensive care; babies receiving parental nutrition, with apnoea requiring stimulation.
For babies needing respiratory support (ventilation); for babies weighing less than 1,000g and/or born at less than 28 weeks’ gestation and receiving nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP); for babies with severe respiratory disease or who require major surgery.
Most premature babies survive, thrive and experience few long-term issues.
• Babies born at 23 weeks or below have a 20 per cent chance of survival to discharge home
Source – 1995 EPICure Study
A more recent study of all babies born under 27 weeks gestation in England only in 2006 identified statistically significant improved survival rates at 24 and 25 weeks.
• Babies born at 24 weeks have a 47 per cent chance of survival
Source – 2006 EPICure2 Study
Number of Live Births 2005/06
Source – ONS Health Statistics Quarterly 34 table 2.1 (figures to nearest 100)
Comparison of gestation periods in England 2005/06
Source – NHS Maternity Statistics 2006 Table 21
Comparison of birth weights in England 2005/06
Source – NHS Maternity Statistics 2006 Table 22
12.87% of hospital births in England in 2005/6 were classed as premature and 7.13% were classed as having a low birth weight.
Infant Mortality Rates
There is a significant variation in infant mortality rates across the UK. This can be demonstrated by comparing the rates of the UK’s constituent nations. The variation becomes more apparent when comparing different regions within the UK. A baby born in some parts of Scotland is over three times more likely to die than one born in the Home Counties.
Infant Mortality Rates by constituency nation for 2005
Infant Mortality Rates - examples of regional variation for 2005
Source – ONS Health Statistics Quarterly 34 / GRO Scotland annual review 2005
The table below shows the UK’s high rate of infant mortality and low birth weight babies in comparison with other major European nations. Out of the countries listed the UK has the highest infant mortality rate and only Greece has a higher percentage of low birth weight babies.
European Infant Mortality and Low Birth Weight Rates
Source - UNICEF, Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries, Innocenti Report Card 7, 2007, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence.
*UK information in the UNICEF report is 2003 data.
Data provided by www.bliss.org.uk