Belfast Telegraph

Bliss and Tiny Life report's depressing findings sadly do not make for surprise reading


By Lisa Smyth

Sadly, while the Bliss and Tiny Life report makes for depressing reading, the findings are no surprise. Staff shortages and the impact on services are nothing new in the health service.

Only recently, a Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) inspection of a number of wards at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children highlighted chronic staff shortages.

Junior doctors reported problems with their training, and it emerged that nurses were completing paperwork at home as they were too busy during shifts.

Like emergency care, neonatal medicine is extremely specialised and requires highly skilled and dedicated staff. I saw this first hand following the birth of my second child last May.

Over the years, I have had the privilege of visiting various wards to see the incredible work done in Northern Ireland's hospitals.

However, it was in a personal capacity that I witnessed the dedication, long hours and professionalism displayed in the neonatal unit at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry when my son arrived five weeks early last year.

While I was supposed to deliver my baby at Antrim Area Hospital, there were no free neonatal cots when I arrived in labour at the hospital. This meant an anxious and uncomfortable blue light ambulance ride over the Glenshane Pass to Derry - nothing any mother in labour with a baby who may need intensive care once they are born wants to experience.

But from what I was told at the time, this is the reality for many women - as the demand for neonatal cots in Northern Ireland is frequently greater than the number available at any time.

Having spent time in a neonatal unit, I am still in awe at the ability of the staff there to care for the tiniest and most vulnerable babies.

It is thanks to the nurses there that I was able to properly establish breastfeeding and continue to feed my son at 10 months old.

They truly are miracle workers and despite the pressure and staff shortages, I never once felt my baby was not receiving the best care possible.

Belfast Telegraph

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