Medical Practice

Regional organisation of neonatal intensive care in the North-west

Br Med J 1979; 2 doi: (Published 28 July 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;2:247
  1. Malcolm L Chiswick,
  2. Pat Davies,
  3. R Bate,
  4. Elizabeth Dryburgh,
  5. D Gordon-Nesbitt


    From January 1976 to July 1978, 234 ill neonates were transported to the regional neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) of St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, from 26 maternity hospitals three to 120 miles (4·8-193·1 km) away. Ninety per cent were transferred from 15 hospitals within a 30-mile (48·3 km) radius of the ICU. Most referring hospitals had more than 2000 births a year and offered good nursing supervision of high-risk neonates in conventional special care baby units (SCBUs). In 200 of the 234 babies respiratory symptoms precipitated referral, hyaline membrane disease being the most common final diagnosis. Altogether 143 babies received definitive mechanical ventilation, and most of them were ventilated in the ambulance en route to the ICU. The neonatal survival rates for all babies and for those who received mechanical ventilation were 61% and 45% respectively. Lethal inoperable malformations and tentorial tears accounted for 23 of the 92 deaths.

    A crisis-orientated referral service directed towards the treatment of babies with impending or actual respiratory failure needs close collaboration between the regional ICU and referring SCBUs, with parallel development of their facilities and skills. A complementary but distinct pattern of referral is necessary to cater for those high-risk but not critically ill babies who are born in hospitals that lack staff and facilities to provide the vigilant and anticipatory care that is so necessary.

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