A “baby box” scheme based on an initiative from Finland aimed at reducing infant mortality is to be piloted in the north of England, marking the biggest roll-out of the programme in the NHS so far.
A group of NHS clinical commissioning groups across Cheshire and Merseyside is launching the programme across multiple boroughs, starting in Halton where 30,000 boxes will be handed out to parents.
The boxes are made from durable cardboard and come with a firm mattress, waterproof mattress cover and 100% cotton sheet, are traditionally used as an infant’s bed for up to six months.
”We are confident that the baby boxes in Cheshire and Merseyside will encourage early engagement with health care professionals”
The small size of the box is thought to help prevent babies from rolling onto their stomachs and therefore reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
The original scheme, which started in Finland, has been credited with reducing the infant mortality rate in the country from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015.
Meanwhile, the UK has some of highest rates of infant mortality in Europe, ranking 22nd out of the 50 European countries, with 4.19 deaths per 1,000 births.
In June the Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital in London, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, become the first in the UK to trial the scheme.
This was followed by North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust, which brought in the initiative last month.
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Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s and Children’s Services Partnership – a new vanguard model known as Improving Me, which is made up of 27 NHS organisations under nine local CCGs – is the first organisation in the north of England to introduce the initiative.
During the first phase of the pilot in Halton, the scheme will form part of the local antenatal pathway and be supported by Halton’s midwifery service, which sits within Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
”We believe that it is important to invest in our future population at the earliest opportunity to encourage healthier outcomes for families”
Catherine McClennan, programme director at Improving Me, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to show local mums that their NHS commissioners and providers of maternity services care about them and their babies at all stages of pregnancy.
“We are launching in Halton and will follow this with a rapid roll-out across the rest of Cheshire and Merseyside.”
“We believe that it is important to invest in our future population at the earliest opportunity to encourage healthier outcomes for families. The advice, support and practical benefit that the Baby Box programme provides has been met with enormous enthusiasm to date,” she added.
Jennifer Clary, chief executive of The Baby Box Co, which is supplying the boxes and accompanying educational packs known as the Baby Box University programme, said she was delighted to continue the expansion of the scheme in the NHS.
“This is geographically the widest scale initiative we have launched in the UK. We are confident that the baby boxes in Cheshire and Merseyside will encourage early engagement with health care professionals, as well as access to support and advice to enable improved health outcomes for mums and their babies,” she said.