The Northern Neonatal Network was formally constituted as a Managed Clinical Network in early 2010 and initially built on a “Strategy Document” that had been drafted in July 2008. This set out the priorities and direction of travel for the Network and how it would operate, including its operational Terms Of Reference (TOR). A review of this document was then undertaken at the end of the Network’s first year and was subsequently ratified by the Network Board in April 2011. The TOR are periodically reviewed to take account of changing Board membership and revised/updated as required, but the latest version can be found here.
Following this review, a further piece of work was undertaken by the Network in 2012 to focus on the collective Network vision for the future of neonatal services across the North East of England and North Cumbria. This was led by Dr Steve Byrne (Network Clinical Lead at the time) and was drafted to take account of the current and anticipated changes across the NHS and associated services within Paediatrics and Obstetrics/Midwifery. This revised Network Strategy set out the clinical consensus for how services needed to be configured, with an emphasis on the future viability and sustainability of neonatal intensive care. This was agreed and ratified by the Network Board in October 2012 and recommended that the four Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) needed to be reduced in number.
Further work was undertaken on progressing this strategy which culminated in a recommendation to the Network Board that an external review should be undertaken of NICU services as no consensus on a suitable agreement between the respective Provider Trusts could be reached. A panel from the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health (RCPCH) undertook a comprehensive independent expert review during early 2015 at the request of NHS England who commissioned them to produce a Report with suitable recommendations. This was subsequently published in August 2015 and can be found here.
Following this Report, the Network has been busy supporting the Trusts to move towards implementing the recommendations which has seen the number of NICUs reduce to three, with a long-term aim of new patient pathways enabling the care of the most premature babies less than 26 weeks gestation to be focused at just Newcastle and Middlesbrough. This will enable safe, sustainable and high quality neonatal care to be maintained throughout the North East of England and North Cumbria.
The Network has agreed patient pathways that should be followed to ensure babies are cared for at the most appropriate Unit according to their needs. We attempt to audit these on an annual basis and feed back the results at Board level to highlight compliance and any potential outliers and areas for action. These have recently been revised to take account of the changes due to reconfiguration and the latest set of agreed pathways can be found here.
An Annual Workplan is drafted each year to highlight the main priority areas that the Network intends to focus on in the coming 12 months. It outlines the aims and objectives against these areas and provides a means to let the Network demonstrate it’s worth and by agreed audit and other measures, performance managed against them. The Annual Work Plan for 2019-20 was been ratified by the Network Board and can be found here.