Neonatal nurse shortage

nurseIn the UK there is currently a shortage of those in neonatal nursing jobs and the NHS is currently trying to encourage more nurses to pursue a career in neonatal nursing.

What is the current situation in the UK?

Recently, baby care charity, Bliss, claimed that there was a severe shortage of those in neonatal nursing jobs in the United Kingdom and this was posing a risk to newborn babies. Research carried out by Bliss found that there was a shortage of 1,150 nurses, which was contributing to increased risks for newborn babies, as staff were under so much pressure and resources were stretched. The charity claims that nurses who care for around 70,000 sick and premature babies across the UK each year are being pushed to their limits due to the shortage of neonatal nurses working in specialist units. Research shows that three quarters of neonatal units in the UK had to turn away newborn babies last year and four in five units were working above their occupancy.

Why is there a shortage of neonatal nurses in the UK?

It is believed that around 10 percent of posts in neonatal nursing are vacant and this, coupled with the increase in the number of newborn babies requiring specialist care, has lead to increasingly stretched resources and increased pregnencypressure for neonatal units. Research has shown that there has been an increase in the number of babies requiring specialist care; in 2006, 62,000 babies were admitted to neonatal units and 1,500 were admitted to intensive care. Experts have attributed to the increase in admissions to an increase in the number of women aged over 40 giving birth, an increase in the number of obese women giving birth and an increase in the number of mothers from ethnic minorities giving birth to children (this is associated with mothers not going to antenatal classes or receiving antenatal care during their pregnancy).

What are the implications of a shortage of neonatal nurses?

The shortage of neonatal nurses in the UK means that many specialist neonatal units are stretched beyond their means and there are not enough staff to care for the amount of babies that need specialist care. Members of staff working in specialist units are under extreme pressure and often carry out additional work to make up for the fact that there is nobody else free to do it. Figures show that many neonatal units are oversubscribed, as the number of babies requiring specialist care has increased in recent years. Health experts have warned that the shortage of neonatal nurses could increase the risk of mistakes and prevent some babies from receiving the specialist care they need.