The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has issued a new quality standard setting out priorities on the use of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections in newborn babies.
One in 10 deaths of babies in the first month of life is because of an infection and over 49,000 babies will be admitted to hospital with an infection each year in England and Wales.
“This new quality standard sets out how healthcare professionals can quickly and effectively prescribe antibiotics”
Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE, said: “Giving prompt treatment with antibiotics helps to save the lives of many newborn babies every year.
“This new quality standard sets out how healthcare professionals can quickly and effectively prescribe antibiotics to those pregnant women and babies who need it the most,” she said.
The NICE quality standard includes six statements to help reduce newborn deaths and improve the treatment of pregnant women and babies who need antibiotics for an infection.
These include thoroughly assessing pregnant women and newborn babies to identify any clinical signs that put a newborn at risk of infection.
“We appreciate the importance given to comprehensive clinical risk assessment… so that early symptoms of sepsis, which can be fatal, will be recognised and treated promptly”
Babies are at risk of early-onset neonatal infection if the mother has had a previous baby with an invasive group B streptococcal infection, or has group B streptococcal colonisation, bacteriuria or infection in the current pregnancy.
In addition, NICE said a preventative course of antibiotics should be offered to women as soon as possible during labour if they are at risk of passing an infection on to their newborn, and antibiotics should be administered within one hour if it is decided that a newborn needs treatment – even if test results are yet to come through.
However, to ensure appropriate prescribing, the standard also states that any newborn baby who starts antibiotic treatment should be reassessed at 36 hours to check whether or not they still need them.
Antibiotic treatment may be stopped if the initial suspicion of infection was not strong, test results are negative and the baby’s clinical condition is reassuring.
Jane Munro, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We welcome this new NICE quality standard, which clearly highlights the need to improve prescribing antibiotics so they are given to women and babies at the appropriate time and not overused.
“We also appreciate that the importance given to comprehensive clinical risk assessment that will standardise the observations required for at risk infants, so that early symptoms of sepsis, which can be fatal, will be recognised and treated promptly,” she said.