Neonatal unit celebrates first anniversary of new care programme

Posted on Monday 11th July 2022

Kirsty and baby Hugo in the neonatal unit

Our specialist neonatal unit has recently celebrated its first anniversary since introducing a new way of working, known as Family Integrated Care.

The new way of working helps to empower families to feel confident in caring for their baby throughout their time on the neonatal unit and work in partnership with the clinical team right from the beginning.

Elaine Wood, neonatal sister, said: “We’re so pleased to celebrate our first anniversary of launching Family Integrated Care on our neonatal unit. We’ve found this new way of working has significantly improved the confidence of parents and carers, and their experience of caring for their premature baby.”

Parents Kirsty and Oliver Pritchard took part in Family Integrated Care during their time on the neonatal intensive care unit earlier this year.

Mum Kirsty has a serious heart condition and is under the care of the expert cardiology team at Guy’s and St Thomas’. When she was 20 weeks pregnant, her antenatal care was transferred to our specialist maternity team, based at St Thomas’ Hospital. She had a high chance of her baby being born very prematurely, due to her heart condition.

Kirsty said: “At my 20 week scan, I was told that Hugo’s bowel wasn’t developing properly, so I needed to be transferred to a specialist hospital. As I’ve been so pleased with all my cardiology care at St Thomas’, I asked to be transferred there as I knew the teams would work together. I had weekly scans at the Early Pregnancy and Acute Gynaecology Unit to check how Hugo was growing – the whole maternity team was amazing and so caring.”

Nine weeks later, Kirsty was admitted onto the antenatal ward, and prepared for an emergency C-section to deliver baby Hugo.

Kirsty said: “Unfortunately Oliver caught Covid just before Christmas, and so he wasn’t able to be with me during the birth! The maternity team supported me all the way through, especially when Hugo was transferred to the neonatal unit, as I had to stay and recover on the postnatal ward. Being away from him was so difficult, but the nurses and midwives kept sharing updates and photos of him, which was a great reassurance.”

Neonatal sister, Elaine, said: “Having a baby on the neonatal unit is often unexpected and overwhelming. 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. We’re exceptionally proud that women and their babies get one of the most joined-up service at Evelina London, out of any of the specialist neonatal units across the country.”

Hugo received specialist treatment on the neonatal intensive care unit for three months.

Mum Kirsty continued: “When he was born, he only weighed 770g – he was tiny! We had quite a difficult time at the beginning, Hugo needed surgery on his bowel as it hadn’t developed properly and then had a stoma for seven weeks, until it could be reversed.

“Having a premature baby can be an emotional time, and families need support. The family psychology service was a great help when I started to find things a bit tough, as spending three months on the neonatal intensive care unit was challenging at times, but the whole team helped us at every stage of the journey. I had full confidence in the neonatal team, the nurses cared for Hugo as if he was their own.

“The staff supported Oliver and I to feel comfortable in holding Hugo with all his tubes - being able to have that special skin-to-skin contact was so important to us, and with their help we were able to achieve it. The ‘growing home’ packs helped us to really get involved with all aspects of Hugo's care, and it gave us the confidence to know how we could help. All the nurses encouraged us to join in, and always asked us what we wanted and felt comfortable doing. Within no time we were doing all his ‘care’, which was great, it gave us a little sense of normal parenting. 

“Thanks to the outstanding care of the maternity and neonatal teams at Evelina London, we were able to take home our miracle baby, Hugo. Our journey wasn’t the smoothest as Hugo had a few setbacks during his time, but we felt so supported by all of the staff throughout our time in hospital. I knew that Hugo and I were in the safest hands.”

Thanks to supporters of Evelina London Children’s Charity, two dedicated staff members were funded to implement Family Integrated Care, including a senior nurse and psychologist. Through this project, parents and carers are given a diary for education and recording different aspects of care they learn, such as feeding and skin-to-skin contact. A staff educational programme helps colleagues to support, inform and mentor parents and carers in this new role.

We were the first specialist unit looking after babies with surgical and cardiac conditions in London to use this new model of care.