Video messaging helps parents feel close to their premature babies

Posted on Friday 5th March 2021
Baby Barbara in the Evelina London neonatal unit

Baby Barbara in our neonatal unit

A new video messaging app launched on Evelina London's neonatal unit keeps families connected with their babies even if they can’t be by their side.

The vCreate app allows staff to send regular updates securely to families who are unable to be at Evelina London's unit with their children.

Parents Jenny Clarke and John Britton, from Hastings, use the app while their daughter Barbara is being cared for on the unit. Jenny said: “As we don’t live close to the hospital, we rely on public transport to visit Barbara, which has been especially difficult over the past few months.

“The app has been a brilliant way for us to see Barbara and check in on her progress. She also has seven siblings so they’ve loved being able to see photos of her as she grows, as they’ve not been able to see her in person yet.

 “The staff on the neonatal unit at Evelina London are amazing. The photos and messages about Barbara have really reassured us as a family, and reduced the anxiety of not being able to visit her daily.”

A new feature launched on the app in time for World Book Day (4 March 2021) allows families to record a story for their baby from home. This enables the baby to hear the voices of their family members, as they are unable to all be together on the unit due to COVID-19 visiting restrictions.

Jenny’s oldest daughter Freya, nine-years-old, recorded herself reading a bedtime story which staff have played to Barbara.

Neonatal staff at our hospital aimed for every baby to have a story read to them for World Book Day, either by their visiting parent from the neonatal library, or by their family recording one on the vCreate app.

Elaine Wood, neonatal sister at Evelina London, said: “We support parents to be with their babies on our neonatal unit as much as possible, and have accommodation near the unit for parents who live further away as many of our families come from across the South East.

“However, we know it can be challenging for parents to stay with their babies all the time, especially with visiting restrictions due to COVID-19, and this can cause a lot of anxiety and stress.

“When a baby is admitted to our unit, we sign the family up to vCreate. The app has been vital in helping families feel closely connected to their loved ones during these difficult times”.

Find out more about our neonatal unit, which cares for over 1,000 babies each year. 

The vCreate service is free to use thanks to support from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity.