NHS staff in North Kent who are also the parents of premature babies are being offered additional support via the first health service initiative of its kind in England.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust has become the first health service provider in England to offer additional time off for staff whose babies are born prematurely.
“It is so important that we care for those who are caring for others”
It has signed up to the “employer with heart” charter, which means its staff will receive normal pay up until the point that their normal maternity pay commences.
The charter is co-ordinated by the charity The Smallest Things, which campaigns for extended maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature babies.
The trust highlighted that one in eight babies were born prematurely. But it noted that parents usually have a reduced time to bond with their baby from birth to discharge for babies born prematurely. This can typically last up to several weeks, or even months.
James Devine, the trust’s deputy chief executive and executive director of human resources and organisational development, said: “Our staff work tirelessly every day to look after our patients and we want to ensure that they also receive the support that they need when they have difficulty in their own personal lives.
“We know that this will affect only a small number of our staff each year, but it is so important that we care for those who are caring for others,” he said.
“Having a premature or sick baby being cared for in the NICU can be an extremely worrying time”
Catriona Ogilvy, founder of The Smallest Things, said: “This extra time will give parents more chance to bond with their babies, take care of them at home for longer and recover from the trauma themselves.”
Meanwhile, parents of premature and sick babies at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust are to receive extra support thanks to new video messaging app.
An NHS approved and secured video service, called vCreate, will allow parents to receive video updates of their premature child when they are unable to visit them.
Parents are invited to register for an account, where the app notifies them when a new video is available for them to see. They can also send messages in reply back to the staff.
Ben Moore, founder of vCreate, said: “Parents are given a vCreate Viewer Licence that allows access to videos of their own child only.
As more videos are created a story is formed of the child’s road to recovery. The parents can then take the videos with them when the child leaves the unit as a memento,” he noted.
“Having a premature or sick baby being cared for in the NICU can be an extremely worrying time for parents and families,” said Jo Bennett, family support sister and neonatal outreach lead for the Plymouth unit.
He added: “Leaving your baby, whether that’s to go back home, particularly if you have other children to care for, or just to get further supplies or have some rest, can increase this anxiety further.”
The app is currently being used in 12 hospitals, eleven of which are across the UK and the other in the Channel Islands. They include the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, the neonatal intensive care unit at Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital and the Princess Elizabeth Hospital on Guernsey.