There are not enough specialist nurses to care for ill premature babies, a Tory MP claimed on Wednesday.
Chris Heaton-Harris said that more than half of all neonatal units across the country did not have enough specialist nurses to meet the national standards recommended by neonatal charity Bliss.
The charity has called for a minimum of one nurse to one baby for intensive care, one nurse to no more than two babies for high dependency, and one nurse to no more than four babies for special care.
The country now needed an extra 1,150 specialist nurses, which could lead to a 48% decrease in infant mortality rates, Mr Heaton-Harris said.
He told a debate in Westminster Hall that he was worried cutbacks in services could mean parents travelling further to receive specialist care. These changes made it more difficult and also more costly for families with premature babies.
The government needed to look after parents just as much as babies when considering how to plan changes to the locations of specialist units.
And ministers needed to make sure investment was for the long-term and not just to plug a hole in a budget. Continued training and education for nurses was of “paramount importance”, Mr Heaton-Harris told MPs.
Speaking in the debate, the MP for Daventry said: “We should not and cannot restrict access to healthcare to some of the most vulnerable and innocent in our society, the next generation, on the basis of these lax numbers.
“Frankly we must do better and we must do more. It is this shortfall nationally that shows the extent of the issues that we face.
“It is not a hole that can be plugged in the short-term to meet a budget but something that needs long-term planning and investment in a skilled workforce.”
He added: “I am absolutely sure that from stories I have heard related to me from across the country that best practice can be better spread around.”
Health Minister Daniel Poulter said that “in general” the government was seeing an improvement in healthcare for children but admitted there was more ministers could do to ensure that there was not “variability in the system”.
He said: “We want to make sure that babies that need neonatal care are given the very best care and the very best outcomes in terms of their future lives and indeed the care they get on neonatal wards.”