A premature birth is something that no-one wants, it’s something we actively avoid, yet for 1 in 10 babies it’s something that happens.  In fact 15 million babies are born prematurely, before 37 weeks each year worldwide, with 60,000 of those right here in the UK.

17th November is World Prematurity Day, an opportunity to raise awareness of the high volume of premature births and the devastating impact it can have on families.  To mark the occasion, many landmarks around the world, including Trafalgar Square, Gateshead Millennium Bridge, and Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth, are lighting up purple – the World Prematurity Day colour.

The focus of this year’s campaign is to highlight the lack of support for family-centred care for parents of premature babies.

Experts are clear that early, hands-on parental involvement in babies’ care improves bonding and long-term outcomes for both babies and families, and reduces the length of the baby’s stay in hospital. However, Bliss’ recent report, Families kept apart, exposes a widespread lack of family support services that prevents this involvement:

  • Five out of six neonatal intensive care units do not have enough accommodation to meet national standards.
  • Over one in seven neonatal units do not provide any, or only provide very limited, facilities or financial support for families.
  • Over 40 per cent of units lack basic kitchen facilities, and more than a third of hospitals offer no support whatsoever with meal costs.
  • Parking costs as much as £72 a day.

An earlier Bliss report found that a premature baby costs families an extra £282 per week on average, causing not only emotional, but financial strain.

Bliss are calling on all units to adopt the Bliss Baby Charter, a practical guide to help hospitals provide the best possible family-centred care.

“Family-centred care is a must for all premature babies”, says Zoe Chivers, Bliss’ Head of Services, who created the Baby Charter. “However, patchy provision of overnight accommodation, kitchen and lounge space, and financial support is keeping parents apart from their newborn babies, and preventing them from being as involved in their babies’ care as they would like to be.

“The seven core principles of Bliss’ Baby Charter address this and other issues, and help neonatal units achieve the level of care that all babies deserve.”

Bliss has also launched a new Sunshine Fund website that allows people to raise money by setting up a celebration fund in the name of a baby or other loved one. More information is available at https://sunshine.bliss.org.uk/.