Intended for healthcare professionals

Medical Practice

Costs and benefits of a community special care baby service

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 09 April 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:1043
  1. Jonathan M Couriel,
  2. Pat Davies


    Between January 1981 and December 1986 3829 low birthweight (<2500 g) infants and 1980 other high risk infants were cared for at home after they were discharged from hospital by a specialist neonatal nursing service. Of the infants who were referred to this service, 720 (12%) weighed under 2000 g and 1919 (33%) under 2250 g at the time of discharge home. The infants were visited by the community neonatal sisters on an average of 11 occasions, but the number of visits varied from six to over 100 depending on the needs of the child and parents. There was close liaison with other community and hospital staff. Two hundred and thirty (4%) referred infants were readmitted to hospital while under the care of the specialist nursing service. In 1985 the cost of the service was £127 000, or £123 for each infant referred. Providing this specialist support at home allowed much earlier discharge of low birthweight infants from hospital. When compared with the cost of providing continuing inpatient neonatal care earlier discharge was estimated to have saved roughly £250 000 in 1985.

    Low birthweight infants have an increased risk of serious illness or death that extends beyond the neonatal period. Many are born to young and socially disadvantaged parents who can benefit from expert guidance and support at home. A community neonatal nursing service has advantages for high risk infants and their parents, is cost effective, and allows more efficient use of limited hospital resources.

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