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Premature babies missing out on vital health checks..

Premature babies in England and Wales may be missing out on vital health checks to spot serious disabilities, a report warns.

Major concerns that intellectual, and other developmental problems, may be noticed too late, so children miss out on specialist care, are raised in the report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

NHS England says all babies born more than 10 weeks early should be offered assessments at about two years but the study indicates 46 per cent miss these checks or do not have them recorded.

The review analysed data from more than 86,000 newborn babies in England and Wales in 2014 who required specialist neonatal care.  Of these, 3,600 babies were born more than 10 weeks early, giving them a raised risk of cerebral palsy, hearing impairments, and intellectual disabilities.

NHS England recommends all high-risk babies should have neurological and developmental checks at about two years old to spot and treat these issues.

Leader of the study, Dr Sam Oddie, said the assessments were crucial as the earlier problems were picked up and children could get support, the better chance they had of reaching their full potential.

He said the fact that 46 per cent of babies studied had no checks recorded at age two was a "major concern" and added: "Without these checks, not only does this create added anxiety for parents about whether their child's developmental milestones are being met, but it also adds pressure to the health service as such children will need to start a new pathway through the NHS."

While he accepted some assessments may simply not have been recorded on the system, others would simply have not taken place.

The report shows improvements in other areas of premature care - for example the number of checks for serious eye problems in the first few weeks of life have gone up.

Experts say while the majority of premature babies do not go on to develop problems, certain issues - such as intellectual disabilities - can be difficult for non-specialists to pick up early on.