Initiative to boost support for tiny babies celebrates successful first year | News

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Initiative to boost support for tiny babies celebrates successful first year

A hospital project to boost the health of premature babies after they have been discharged from hospital is celebrating a successful first year, supporting 65 babies.

The impact of the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust neonatal outreach project, which provides specialist support to families of premature babies in their home, includes fewer readmissions to hospital and very few Emergency Department attendances after discharge during 2023. Parents have also reported they are feeling well supported by the service and are gaining knowledge about caring for their baby’s specialist needs once they have left the ward. 

The initiative is the brainchild of Consultant Neonatal Nurse Jo Macleod, who recognised that after discharge, parents of tiny, premature babies had different and greater healthcare support needs from parents of full-term, healthy babies. She said:

“Babies who are born early have different needs from those born at full term, and this remains the case even when they are in good health and have been sent home from the ward. For example, if they have feeding problems or become unwell, they are more likely to develop serious symptoms more quickly and, in very rare cases, this can be fatal.

“However, after discharge from the special care baby unit, parents found it could be difficult to access the specialist care and support they need. We launched a new initiative to fill this gap.”

Specialist care in the home

The scheme, which launched in January 2023, sees specialist neonatal support workers providing regular visits to preterm babies and their families at home. The highly trained support workers, who visit families once to twice a week, provide a range of services, including assessments, monitoring and support with feeding, growth and development. They will also provide education and guidance to families on how to care for their preterm baby at home.

The support worker is the first point of contact for any concerns during the early weeks and is available on the phone to answer queries.

All babies in this scheme are provided with open access to the children’s ward to get quick medical care after discharge should they require it. They also have a four to six-week follow up with Jo Macleod, Consultant Neonatal Nurse, before being discharged from the neonatal outreach scheme.

Patient feedback includes: “We were overwhelmed with the support and care we received from the outreach team. We feel very lucky and extremely grateful.”

Backed by charity funds to launch bright ideas

The first year of the project was funded by Royal Surrey Charity, after Jo successfully pitched the idea to a panel of judges for our Bid for Better initiative to get great ideas off the ground.

Because of the project’s success, it is now a permanent initiative and is expanding in March 2024 to include home phototherapy and become a seven-day service.

Celebrating a successful year

The team celebrated the project’s success with a special event at Godalming Church Hall, including prizes and a baby sensory class, which was attended by the outreach team and parents who have used the service.

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