Neonatal physiotherapists should be helping to provide developmental support and surveillance assessments to prematurely born children, during the first two years of their lives.
Approximately 50,000 preterm babies are born in the UK every year
This is according to a new clinical guideline on the developmental follow-up of children and young people born preterm, published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on 9 August.
It states that approximately 50,000 preterm babies are born in the UK every year, and highlights that they are at risk of developmental challenges, including physical, sensory, cognitive and learning disorders.
As a result NICE recommends that all preterm children receive developmental surveillance up until, and at the point, they turn two years old.
This should include face-to-face follow up visits and developmental assessments from a multidisciplinary team (MDT), who can identify any major problems or disorders.
Important role of physiotherapists
Hiliary Cruickshank, speaking on behalf of the Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapist’s (APCP) neonatal committee, welcomed the guideline.
She told Frontline: ‘It highlights the important role of the neonatal physiotherapist as part of the MDT in both neonatal intensive care units/special care baby units and out-reaching into the community, or in the community setting.
‘The role of neonatal physiotherapists is supported by a detailed competence framework which will support staff in developing the appropriate skills required to work with this vulnerable population.’
She added that physiotherapists working in the field commonly use a range of standardised assessments in the neonatal period and during follow up assessments.
‘Neonatal physiotherapists are highly skilled practitioners and experts in the type of assessment required to look for deficit at two years in order to access appropriate therapy interventions at the earliest opportunity for these vulnerable infants,’ she said.
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