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Providing space to care for parents at their lowest ebb

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The death of a baby is undoubtedly one of the most traumatic events parents could ever face.

It’s something most parents find difficult to even contemplate. However, for others, coping with the death of their stillborn baby is very real and a time just when they need all the compassion and support that maternity and other carers can provide.

In Leicester, the maternity team recognised changes needed to be made and took action, raising money to create a purpose-built bereavement delivery room on the delivery suite at Leicester General Hospital.

Joan Morrissey, Senior Midwife explained: “After comments from a very sad couple who had suffered the loss of their baby son who was born asleep, we realised that our delivery suite was inadequate for bereaved women to deliver in. To deliver a stillborn baby in the middle of a busy active delivery suite with happy sounds of crying babies and elated parents all around was clearly not acceptable.” 

The midwives had to think ‘out of the box’ and find space on the delivery suite they could convert into the room parents needed. They identified the ideal space – an unused doctor on call room and shower room which looked out on to a small, unkempt courtyard.

Thinking big, the team launched an appeal for £100,000 to transform the space and improve the experience for traumatised parents.

Joan said: “The cost was high as we needed piped gases of oxygen and entonox in the room, but local business stepped in and a wonderful couple donated some of their life savings to the appeal fund.

“Midwives, four members of the public and a Leicester DJ ran sponsored marathons. We held Christmas and Easter Craft Fayres and with a donation from the Department of Health for bereavement services we finally did it.”

“We can’t thanks people enough for their generosity and support,” she added.

Bereavement courtyard

The Bereavement Courtyard

As a result of all the support and help there is now a delivery room with an added wet room in the maternity unit, plus a small nursery for the baby to rest. French doors from the delivery room lead out on to a landscaped courtyard, which maternity staff (and their partners) dug and prepared over a hot Sunday afternoon. A local company planted beautiful shrubs, helping to create a space for the woman and her family to sit quietly and come to terms with their loss.

Joan: “We are now able to look after women with all the care and compassion we always have done, but now we have an environment that is quiet, private and purposeful.”

The midwives have since formed a bereavement group and speakers attend meetings from Leicester University to talk about the latest research. A photographer came along to show us how to take those precious photographs even better. Nine midwives from University Hospital Leicester attended the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death (SANDS) Conference in September.

“In general, staff feel more able to provide compassion care and are sharing what they’ve learnt with all grades.”

Joan concluded: “It has taken courage to get this far and with an amazing team of staff at the Leicester General Hospital we now care for bereaved families with the privacy and dignity that they deserve. We are so committed that we are still raising money to provide the same facility at the Leicester Royal Infirmary which is our other Leicester Unit.”

Marie Batey, Head of Acute and Lead for Compassion in Practice, added: “If anyone needed a good example of how committed care staff are to improving the experience for their patients, this is it.

“Anything that can be done to help parents come to terms with the loss of their baby just has to be applauded. The midwives at Leicester General Hospital saw something that needed to be improved, acted on it, brought the local community along with them, and as a result created an area parents will benefit from for years to come. And while they have tackled an issue with energy, thoughtfulness and entrepreneurial zeal, what motivated them was a desire to show care and compassion for patients at their lowest ebb.  Their leadership was absolutely exemplary”

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