One of Britain’s leading hospitals was forced to refuse 518 requests to care for seriously ill premature babies last year because it did not have the necessary resources, The Observer can reveal.
St George’s in south London was forced to close its doors to hundreds of new premature baby arrivals 71 times in the last six months because it did not have room. The hospital has five cot spaces that it is unable to open because it cannot afford nurses for them. Dr Sandy Calvert, consultant neonatologist at the unit, said it was distressing for staff to be unable to help: ‘It is very frustrating and it affects morale, if you feel you are turning away babies and they are not getting optimal care.’
The move meant newly delivered mothers and sick infants had to travel large distances in search of another bed, and raises fresh questions over services for the rising number of babies born early. Across the country, problems with understaffing mean hospitals are frequently unable to accept children, despite having beds lying empty.
Hospitals turn away ill babies