Evelina London Children’s Hospital’s unit for unwell newborn babies is to give parents equal say in decision-making alongside doctors and nurses, in a “pioneering” move.
Usually in the NHS the clinical team takes the lead on decisions about standard treatment for babies. The new model, called FICare, was launched in Canada and is expected to become the norm in the UK. The Evelina neonatal unit will be the first of its kind in London.
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.”
The new unit is expected to be fully up and running in a year. Three staff members are working full time on it now, including a senior nurse and a psychologist, with support from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ charity.
New techniques include helping train new parents in various ways of caring for their babies, like feeding and skin-to-skin contact. A staff educational programme is also being developed.
Mum-of-two Ellen Shustik helped develop the new approach. Ellen’s son Henry was born ten weeks prematurely in February 2020 at St Thomas’ Hospital. Henry was 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. Trying to bond with your baby when you’ve been separated at birth and they’re in an incubator can be really challenging and upsetting. 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.
“I’m pleased I’ve been able to help shape the launch of FICare at Evelina London as having this support implemented into their routine care will be a great help to families.”