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Supporting the NHS Q1 2022

Improving the life chances of babies born preterm

iStock / Getty Images Plus / petrunjela

Natasha Swinscoe

Patient Safety National Lead, AHSN Network
and CEO, West of England AHSN

There are many factors to consider when trying to make sure a baby born earlier than 34 weeks has the best possible outcome. A new perinatal approach is helping ensure the best care is provided for all.

National child mortality data show that 69% of infants who died under a year old were born preterm. With so many risks from very early birth, how can healthcare professionals make the right intervention at the right time? One solution being trialled in the South West of England is PERIPrem, a care bundle of eleven interventions.

Creating a safety net

New mum Lauren says, “I truly believe that this care package saved my twin boys lives.” Like others in the South West, she was given a bespoke PERIPrem passport setting out the care she and her newborn babies would receive. These interventions range from delayed cord clamping to offering mothers magnesium sulphate, which reduces the risk of the baby developing cerebral palsy later in life.

The care bundle helped Lauren to focus on having a more positive experience. “I have two beautiful little boys who are just starting to smile and that is down to the care bundle,” she says.

Maternity and neonatal professionals are working to cut instances of mortality and serious brain injury in half by 2025, in line with the NHS Long-Term Plan. The care bundle also contributes to the aims of the national NHS maternity and neonatal safety improvement programme.

A collaborative approach

The bundle was developed by the West of England and South West Academic Health Science Networks. In partnership with the South West Neonatal Network, every maternity and neonatal unit in the region, along with parent groups, has helped design and test the care bundle.

Dr Sarah Bates and Professor Karen Luyt are the programme’s joint clinical leads. Dr Bates says, “PERIPrem has created a brilliant community, where clinicians have joined together to ensure that every preterm baby born in our region has access to the most effective care.”

Proving impact

Initial outcome data is encouraging and shows that rates for both severe brain injury and mortality have fallen in the region. “My early analysis indicates a reduction in mortality of 22% so far, which if scaled up nationally would mean 220 fewer preterm babies dying per year,” says Professor Luyt.

This shared purpose created through the care bundle is set to give many more vulnerable babies the best chance at a healthy life.

The AHSN Network works with NHS England and Improvement, industry and healthcare partners to spread innovation.

For more information on PERIPrem, visit

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