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Care of newborns with severe health problems to be reviewed

A review into how newborns with deteriorating health are cared for by hospitals and in the community has been announced in the light of the death of a baby more than a decade ago.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it will look at current practices for managing newborn infants with significant health problems in around 20 neonatal services offering different levels of care in England.

It follows the death of Elizabeth Dixon in 2001.

She suffered brain damage after her high blood pressure was left untreated when was born eight weeks early at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey in December 2000. She went on to die just days before her first birthday after a nurse failed to deal with her blocked breathing tube.

Her parents have battled to have her death investigated by the health regulator but a joint probe due to be carried out by the CQC and NHS England last year was dropped.

Announcing their review, the CQC said it will examine how well foetal medicine, obstetrics, neonatal and community services are working together to care for newborn babies with declining health problems.

It will particularly focus on the diagnosis and management of hypertension (high blood pressure), the management of respiratory support technologies (including tracheostomies) and how well the services work together to identify and follow up on any complications during pregnancy.

The review could lead to the development of national clinical guidelines by professional bodies.

Professor Edward Baker, the CQC's deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: "Our review aims to look at how services are managing newborn infants with severe health complications, and how each of the respective services involved in the care work together.

"Everyone has the right to care which is safe and effective, but we know from our inspections of maternity services there is a marked difference in the quality of the care provided. We want to highlight good practice so that it can be shared, but also to identify what is stopping hospitals from providing good or outstanding care.

"While this review will not give us a national picture of the quality of care, we hope that it will identify if there is a need to develop clinical guidelines to ensure there is consistent care across England."

The report is expected to be published by the end of March 2016.

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