Sick babies from Banbury and Oxfordshire may be transferred across the region in ICU beds crisis

Very sick newborn babies are at risk of being transferred out of the county because of a lack of neo-natal intensive care beds.

The Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUH) maternity unit has been on ‘red alert’ for much of the past two weeks as neo-natal intensive care cots, high dependency cots and special care incubators have been occupied to capacity.

On a number of days the ‘maternity dashboard’, that shows availability of such special care facilities, has also shown no maternity beds available either.

The dashboard shows availability across the region. It shows that alternative specialist units across the region are also under huge pressure.

Babies may be transferred to specialist units in Portsmouth and Southampton or further afield.

At the time of going to press (Wednesday) the dashboard showed only one maternity bed at Oxford, with no intensive care (NICU), high dependency (HDU) or special care (SC) cots.

In Portsmouth and Southampton there were three and four NICU beds respectively, the most for a fortnight.

Babies may need intensive care for a number of reasons, including being born prematurely, being very small and have a low birthweight, having an infection or jaundice or a very difficult birth.

The specialist cots are also needed for babies who are waiting or, or recovering from complex surgery. In a statement early this month the OUH said: “Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has been exceptionally busy and, for a short amount of time, we had to temporarily reduce services for women outside Oxfordshire whose babies might need to be cared for on the unit.

“This was to ensure the provision of safe patient care to those babies already on the ward.”