Premature newborns are 32% less likely to die if they are admitted to high volume neonatal units rather than low volume, according to new research.
The study, led by the University of Warwick and published in BMJ Open, analysed data from 165 neonatal units across the UK. It found babies born at less than 33 weeks gestation were 32% less likely to die if they were admitted to high volume units, compared to low volume.
For babies born at less than 27 weeks the effect was greater, with the odds of dying almost halved when they were admitted to high volume units, compared to low volume.
The research was led by Sam Watson from the University of Warwick's Medical School and Department of Economics.
He said: "One possible explanation for our results could be that those neonatal units delivering a greater volume of care provide the clinicians who work there with more experience. The first hours of these babies' lives can be crucial, which means it is essential to give them expert care at this time.
"It is also possible that economies of scale play a role, in that the larger and busier units have more resources to invest in technology and facilities. However more research is needed to tease out the possible explanations and inform policy effectively."
The research was carried out in collaboration with Imperial College London, University of Leicester and University College London.
The team analysed data for 20,554 babies born at less than 33 weeks and for 2,559 babies born at less than 27 weeks. Twenty-four per cent of the neonatal units were classified as high volume and 46.4% of infants born at less than 33 weeks were born in hospitals with a high volume neonatal unit.
For this study high volume neonatal units were defined as those that provide more than 3,480 care days to preterm babies per year. Several possible factors that could influence the statistical analysis were taken into account
|Contact: Kelly Parkes-Harrison|
University of Warwick