2 March 2023

From left, Amanda Andrews of the Innovation Agency with Catherine Nash of the North West Neonatal Operational Delivery Network and colleagues from Liverpool Women’s Hospital - Dr Jill Harrison, Dr Alex Cleator, De Rebecca Kettle and Sarah Howard.

A national initiative to protect pre-term babies from brain injury and cerebral palsy has been hailed as a success in Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and South Cumbria.

The Innovation Agency and fellow academic health science networks (AHSNs) around the country have been working with local maternity and neonatal units to make sure all preterm babies receive magnesium sulphate.  

In the North West Coast, in the last year around 85 per cent of babies born before 30 weeks’ gestation received magnesium sulphate. This is an increase of 15 per cent since the initiative began in 2018.

It means that of the 259 babies who received the dose in 2022, it’s estimated that seven babies will have benefited. This is based on research which shows that for every 37 mothers who receive magnesium sulphate, one fewer baby is affected by cerebral palsy.

Nationally, it is estimated that more than 16,000 babies have received magnesium sulphate, resulting in around 367 fewer cases of cerebral palsy since 2018.

The drive to increase the use of magnesium sulphate is part of a package of seven interventions in a maternity and neonatal optimisation bundle for preterm infants, commissioned by the NHS England Patient Safety Team.

The Innovation Agency has been working closely with the North West Neonatal Operational Delivery Network (NW NODN) to support maternity teams to take up the optimisation care bundle.

Quality Improvement Lead Nurse for the NW NODN, Catherine Nash said: “The positive improvements made across the North West Coast are a testament to the dedication and hard work of our local maternity and neonatal units.

“Following the introduction of the optimisation care bundle, units are working hard to ensure as many babies as possible receive the recommended interventions. Apart from in exceptional circumstances, it has become the norm to administer antenatal magnesium sulphate to protect those vulnerable babies who have been born more than 10 weeks early.”

Innovation Agency Programme Manager Amanda Andrews said: “It is fantastic to work with our local maternity and neonatal units; their dedication to continually improving how they care for mothers and vulnerable babies is inspirational. They work so hard in a high-pressure environment and strive to provide the safest service possible.

“I am delighted that we can share these positive results and celebrate our successful collaborations across the North West Coast.”

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