Plans to expand the number of neonatal beds at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre were welcomed by councillors who said they were “desperately needed”.
The number of neonatal cots at QMC will be increased from 17 to 38 by 2023.
Vice-Chairman of the Health Scrutiny committee at Nottinghamshire County Council Matt Barney (Con) said he “wholeheartedly welcomed” the plans.
It comes as council documents from a Health Scrutiny meeting on November 22 stated that “the environment and space available on the Neonatal unit at the QMC is not fit for purpose, leading to increased risk of cross-infection and mortality”.
Council papers show that neonatal units should not operate at over 80% occupancy over the year – but Queen’s Medical Centre is usually more than 95% full.
The Neonatal Unit at City Hospital has 24 cots but babies requiring specialised imaging or surgical care are currently transferred from the City to the QMC campus.
From April 2019 to April 2020, there were 147 transfers between Nottingham hospitals trust sites and in the same period, 116 babies could not be accommodated in Nottingham sites and were transferred to hospitals, as far as Burnley, Luton, Scunthorpe, Bradford and Birmingham.
Around 8,500 babies are born at NUH every year and the changes will affect around 250 of those babies.
Councillor Michelle Welsh (Lab) said: “We’re talking about increasing capacity which is greatly welcomed. It is a job of passion for the people that work there.
“That is going to put pressure on the current staff and mean a big recruitment drive.
“I am fully aware that at the moment other neonatal units across the country are finding it incredibly difficult to get people to work on those units.
“I welcome the increasing capacity, I think it is absolutely fantastic. Thank you for doing this because it is so desperately needed.”
The response was that the trust would “absolutely” be increasing the number of staff working on the units.
Councillor John Willmott (Ind) added: “Can I say that we wholeheartedly support the expansion of neonatal services at Queens Medical Centre from 17 to 38 by 2023.”
Councillors unanimously agreed to the plans for the CCG to proceed with targeted engagement of families who would be affected.
Council documents stated: “This is a major quality improvement for a small number of pre-term babies and their families. The expansion of neonatal intensive care cots at QMC campus will reduce significantly the number of babies needing to be transferred to other hospitals, and the realignment of neonatal care between City and QMC will provide better resources – numbers of staff, expertise, equipment and physical space – for those patients.”