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NHS baby box programme gets full Cheshire and Merseyside roll-out after pilot

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All new mothers living in Cheshire and Merseyside are to receive a free Finnish-style “baby box” from 25 September, following a successful pilot in Halton.

The initiative, led by the NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Improving Me programme, will now see all new mothers in the region getting a baby box as part of their antenatal maternity care.

“Baby boxes are a powerful and internationally recognised engagement tool”

Catherine McClennan

Under the initiative, families will also become members of the Baby Box University – an online education syllabus providing health advice and support on a wide range of topics, such as breastfeeding, smoking cessation, perinatal mental health and nutrition in pregnancy.

The online information is backed with antenatal appointments with midwives and additional sessions through the “baby box community”, which aim to reduce social isolation and provide additional guidance on use of the box and its resources.

At the first meeting with a midwife, women will be given their card to access the Baby Box University. At around 28 weeks of pregnancy, all women will be invited to collect their box.

Catherine McClennan, programme director for the NHS Improving Me programme, said: “I’m delighted that we are able to expand our fantastic baby box initiative to all new families in Cheshire and Merseyside.

Cheshire and Merseyside Baby Box initiative

Baby boxes to be rolled out across Cheshire and Merseyside

Local nurses with a baby box

“Baby boxes are a powerful and internationally recognised engagement tool that will help us to reduce health inequalities, increase choice in pregnancy and deliver more person-centred care as part of a maternity package of education,” she said.

The Improving Me programme is a partnership of 27 NHS organisations across Cheshire and Merseyside aiming to improve the experiences of women and children.

The partnership is one of the NHS England’s “vanguard” sites – designed to create new models of care in the NHS – and one of seven maternity pioneers in the country.

Simon Banks, senior responsible officer for the programme, said: “The feedback we have received from our pilot in Halton from families and health professionals has been fantastic and we are proud to be rolling the offer out across the region.”

Jennifer Clary, chief executive of the Baby Box Co, which is providing the products for the programme, said: “Working in partnership with the NHS Improving Me programme team has been incredibly rewarding.

“I am delighted to see this innovative baby box programme expand beyond Halton to include all expecting and new parents in Cheshire and Merseyside,” she said.

As reported by Nursing Times this time last year, clinical commissioning groups across the region launched the pilot across multiple boroughs, starting in Halton with 30,000 boxes, in what was the biggest roll-out of the programme in the NHS so far in England.

In June last year, the Queen Charlotte and Chelsea Hospital in London, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, become the first to trial the scheme. This was followed by North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust.

Meanwhile, the Scotland government has adopted the idea nationally over the summer, also following a pilot scheme.

What are Baby Boxes?

First used in Finland in the 1930s, Baby Boxes are used across the globe as an established and recognised maternity engagement tool to support women and families throughout their antenatal and postnatal journey.

In addition to providing a safe space for a new born baby to rest should they need one, Baby Boxes come stocked with ethically sourced ‘starter’ resources – such as nappies, breast pads and items of clothing – aiming to make life that little bit easier for new families.

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