Evelina London empowers families through a new neonatal care programme

Posted on Friday 14th May 2021
Henry in our NICU having treatment.

Henry in the neonatal unit at Evelina London.

Our specialist neonatal unit will be the first of its kind in London to pioneer a new way of working, known as Family Integrated Care unit (FICare).

Launched this month the new way of working helps to empower families to feel confident in caring for their baby throughout their journey on the neonatal unit and work in partnership with the clinical team looking after their baby.  

Currently standard treatment on neonatal units is led by the clinical team, whereas with FICare families are involved right from the beginning. It is hoped this new way of working with parents and carers will lead to greater confidence in caring for their baby after they have been discharged from hospital.

Mum-of-two Ellen Shustik has been involved in developing the project. Her son Henry was born 10 weeks prematurely in February 2020 at St Thomas’ Hospital and cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“Having a baby on NICU can be an emotional time and you need lots of help and support. It can also be daunting for parents to try and cuddle a premature baby, especially if they are connected to lots of machines.

“Having the skills to know how to feed your baby through a tube, how to safely hold them and get involved in their routine will help you gain the confidence for when your baby is discharged and will be a great help to families.”

Elaine Wood, neonatal sister, said: “We’re excited to be launching FICare on our neonatal unit as it has significant benefits to parents and babies. It not only improves clinical outcomes, but improves the experience families have on our unit.

“Having a baby on the neonatal unit is often unexpected and overwhelming. It can be a traumatic time for families, and affect their mental health. It is great to know that we can really make this experience better. By working collaboratively to care for their baby, we can ease some of their anxiety and enable parents to feel like parents, even when separated from their baby.”

Through this project parents and carers will be given a manual for education and recording things they are learning about different aspects of care, such as feeding and skin-to-skin contact. A staff educational programme is also being developed to help staff support, inform and mentor parents and carers in their new role.

Thanks to the supporters of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, three dedicated staff members are working to roll out the project, including a senior nurse and psychologist.

We are the first specialist unit looking after babies with surgical and cardiac conditions in London to use this new model of care, which will take around a year to be fully up and running