Objective: To describe policies towards family visiting in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) and compare findings with those of a survey carried out 10 years earlier.
Methods: A questionnaire on early developmental care practices was mailed to 362 units in eight European countries (Sweden, Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy). Of them 78% responded, and among those responded, 175 reported caring for at least 50 very low birth weight infants every year and their responses were analysed further.
Results: A majority of all units allowed access at any time for both parents. This was almost universal in northern Europe and the UK, whereas it was the policy of less than one-third of NICU in Spain and Italy, with France in an intermediate position. Restrictions on visiting of grandparents, siblings and friends, as well as restricting parents’ presence during medical rounds and procedures followed the same pattern. A composite visiting score was computed using all the variables related to family visiting. Lower median values and larger variability were obtained for the southern countries, indicating more restrictive attitudes and lack of national policy.
Conclusions: The presence of parents and other family members in European NICUs has improved over a 10-year period. Several barriers, however, are still in place, particularly in the South European countries.