Efforts to improve standards of care for premature and sick babies have been thrown into doubt amid concern over funding and a gap in the nursing, it has emerged.
Ministers have refused to allocate the cash needed to plug a shortfall of 2,700 nurses and 300 other specialist staff, such as physiotherapists and dieticians, on England’s neonatal wards.
A Neonatal Taskforce was established last year by the Department of Health in response to the National Audit Office’s criticism of standards of care for sick babies.
Its new guidance, published on Wednesday, recommends gravely ill babies get one-on-one nursing to give them the best chance of survival in the first 28 days of life.
But experts fear that without extra resources to help neonatal units take on more staff the changes will not be implemented.
A spokesman for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said: “We urge the government to ensure that the resources and funding needed to implement the recommendations and standards are made available.
“Babies should not be denied access to one-to-one nursing care and other support which is already available to children and adults in intensive care.”
Health Minister Anne Keen said: “To ensure this toolkit makes a real difference to neonatal care I have also asked to have ministerial oversight of its implementation.”
Nearly 70,000 babies a year are treated in neonatal units, with around a third admitted to intensive care. Last year, 2,127 babies born in England died before they reached a month old.