Airedale hospital set to permanently stop delivering premature babies

Airedale Hospital is seeking to make permanent changes to its neonatal service that has seen some premature babies delivered in Bradford instead.

Due to low staffing levels in the unit, the hospital in Steeton began operating as a special care unit instead of a local neonatal unit in 2020.

This has led to around 24 families a year being transferred to a neighbouring hospital, mostly in Bradford, for delivery of their premature babies born between 26-31 weeks gestation.

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All babies born after 31 weeks’ gestation will continue to be delivered at Airedale.

Airedale HospitalAiredale Hospital
Airedale Hospital

According to a North Yorkshire Council report, staffing levels have “improved significantly” at the hospital but the trust has asked NHS England to make the change permanent.

It is also seeking the views of councillors in North Yorkshire and Bradford.

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The report says that if Airedale’s local neonatal unit were to continue it would not meet the clinical standards on the volume of activity required to look after high dependency babies.

It adds there is “good evidence” that busier units have better outcomes for families.

Currently, all premature babies born from 22 to 27 weeks gestation are cared for in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) at Bradford, Hull, Leeds or Sheffield.

The report said: “Ultimately, this change will ensure the highest quality of care for premature babies across the region. Although the impact is small in terms of numbers, the impact of the change and on patient experience will continue to be monitored closely.”

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