Plans to improve neonatal care in the NHS are under jeopardy after the government has refused to provide extra funding to implement the changes.
A Neonatal Taskforce set up last year recommended that seriously ill babies receive one-on-one nursing to improve their chances of survival in the crucial first four weeks of life.
Last year in England 2,127 babies died before they reached a month old.
The new standards set out how the NHS should improve treatment of the nearly 70,000 babies, one in ten births, who are treated in neonatal units each year.
However doctors and nurses fear that plans for improvement, which would require another 2,700 nurses, will not be possible without further investment.
Health Minister Anne Keen pointed out that NHS funding overall had increased in recent years although there would not be any further money invested to ensure that the new standards are reached.
Demand for neonatal care has increased by 9% in the past three years, partly due to the number of older women having children after undergoing fertility treatment, leading to complications from multiple and premature births.
This is the first time that national standards have been issued and it is hoped that by requiring one-to-one nursing in intensive care, one-to-two in high dependency units and one-to-four in special care, improvements will be made in hospitals which don't currently meet this level of care.
With no extra government funding, individual hospitals will be forced to find the money in their own budgets to provide the extra staff needed.
Andy Cole, of the special care baby charity Bliss, said "Premature and sick babies are the most vulnerable members of our society. They need the highest quality of hospital care to ensure they have the best possible start in life. The taskforce document highlights the serious shortages of nurses needed to care for babies and their families."
What do you think? Will publishing national standards be enough, or should the government be backing up its recommendations with cash?
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