New standards set benchmark for preterm and sick babies’ care
The European Standards of Care for Newborn Health have been published, setting a new benchmark for the care of preterm and ill babies.
The standards advocate 24-hour access for parents to the NICU and recommend provision of a supportive sensory environment that minimises exposure to excessive light, noise, and other stressful stimuli.
Where painful medical procedures are necessary, parents are encouraged to recognise their baby's discomfort signals and to provide non-analgesic pain relief, for example, by breastfeeding and having skin-to-skin contact with the infant.
To ensure continuity of care after hospital discharge, the standards also recommend providing families with a comprehensive plan that includes tailored education, training, and ongoing psychosocial support for parents.
The project was launched five years ago and has brought together around 220 experts across disciplines from 31 countries to work with parent representatives.
Policy makers, hospital administrators, insurers, professional societies, patient associations, and industry were all urged to work together on the implementation of the standards.
The resulting standards cover 11 key topics – starting from antenatal and perinatal care, to transition to home, ethical decision-making, palliative care, and long-term follow-up.
An editorial in The Lancet welcomed the standards, saying that they were much needed because premature birth remained a major cause of under-fives mortality and lifelong morbidities.
‘Regrettably, the highly variable quality of maternal and infant care in Europe means that vast outcome disparities exist both between and within countries,’ it said.
The Lancet said that, although some recommendations require substantial investments, initial steps are proposed so that immediate actions can be taken. These include simple steps such as putting up a folding screen to guarantee privacy, carefully explaining medical conditions and management plans to parents, and providing information about available professional and peer-to-peer support services.
The Lancet called on health systems to review their protocols in light of these standards, identify priority areas for change, and establish strategies for implementation.