Empowering Families for Better Outcomes: Family Integrated Care in Neonatal Intensive Care

I was pleased to spend some time with a group of truly inspirational women last week.  They all work in the field of neonatal care in the Trust and wider region and are leading our ambition to provide ‘family integrated care.’

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be an overwhelming and stressful environment for families who often unexpectedly find that their newborn babies need specialised medical care. A best practice model from the British Association of Perinatal Care called Family Integrated Care (FIC) aims to support them through this experience and promote a culture of partnership between families and staff.

Family integrated care recognises the crucial role of families in their infant’s care and aims to empower them with knowledge, skills, and support. It works to create trusting relationships between staff and families and is built on a collaborative approach that involves parents as active partners in their infant’s care in the NICU.

It recognises that parents are experts about their child and provides them with the necessary tools and support to actively and confidently participate in all aspects of their care.

The team are all passionate supporters of this approach and have been working for five years to make progress in Newcastle.  We talked about the impact this has had for families, and also reflected on how covid has affected the way they worked in the NICU, and also of course the huge impact that the Letby trial has had on families and staff.

At the heart of their work has been an acute focus on the fundamentals of care with families truly at the centre.  The aim is for them to be the primary caregiver to their babies on the unit, learning the skills that they need to be as ‘hands on’ as possible.

This isn’t just the right thing to do for families – there is also clear evidence about improved outcomes for babies – including meeting developmental milestones, breastfeeding rates and maternal mental health. It empowers parents, boosts their confidence, and strengthens the parent-infant bond.

Over the five years since family integrated care was introduced, the team have made some fundamental changes to how they work – both clinically and with the environment.

For example, they have introduced fingerprint access to the unit – maintaining our high standards of security but enabling access for parents.  One of the people I spoke to was Nadia who is a parent representative supporting our unit and is also the author of a book ‘Surviving prematurity’ which tells her story.

She explained about the feeling of ‘torture’ that families feel when they are separated from their newborn and spoke vividly about the additional layer of separation she would feel whilst waiting to be let into the unit in the past.

Taking away this additional layer of distance between families and their babies by making access easier has made a huge difference to all our families.

Other examples of positive change include:

  • vCreate – The team now use vCreate – a free secure video messaging service which allows clinical staff to record and send video updates to parents. Parents are able to access videos of their baby when they are away from the unit to receive reassurance of their baby’s wellbeing which helps reduce separation anxiety.
  • ‘All about me’ boards – To standardise and enhance the information provided at the cotside, bedside boards have been created. Families can use an “All about me” card, as well as smaller postcards with pertinent details specific to their baby.
  • Communication cards – Together with parents, the team are developing communication cards to better support our non-English speaking families. These will be available in our top 5 non-English languages as well as packs with no words (just pictures) which could be used for any other language.

Of course, there is much more still to do to create a true partnership with every family that uses our service. Making sure they can get a hot meal provided while their babies are in hospital, including them fully in ward rounds, and above all ensuring that they always feel confident to raise a concern or ask a question are all still work that the team are developing alongside our family partners.

I was overwhelmed by the drive of this team, and by the lengths they have gone to to drive up the experience of their patients and families, and I’ve committed to raising awareness of this approach more widely across the NHS.  I want to thank the team for their ongoing efforts and achievements, and particularly wanted to thank Nadia and our other families who contribute their insights.

Freedom to speak up

Our Freedom to speak up Guardian is Andy Pike and his role is to act as an independent, impartial point of contact to support, signpost and advise staff who wish to raise serious issues or concerns.

I met with Andy, who took up this role in January 2019 and is supported by our Freedom to Speak Up champions, to hear his feedback and experiences over the last four years. Clearly progress has been made in our efforts to create an open, honest and transparent culture which values speaking up but there is still lots more we can do.

It’s important we continue to build on the work Andy and the team has done and we are in discussion about how we can ensure all the clinical boards have the expertise and capacity to support and empower staff to talk openly about any concerns regarding wrongdoing.

To contact Andy, in confidence email [email protected] or call 07342066053.

We have also launched a Freedom to Speak up strategy which provides guidance to all staff on the behaviours expected to ensure everyone is treated respectfully at work and the services available to any staff needing support.  This can be found on our intranet on the Freedom to Speak up page.

Geordie Hospital

This week saw the return of Geordie Hospital on Channel 4 and it was a pleasure to see our extremely valued staff, including our midwives for the first time, back on the screen.

The format of the programme remains the same and follows individuals during a typical shift, and there’s a few new faces this time. I hope you managed to catch the first episode – it really does provide a glimpse into the care and compassion that our teams provide every day.

Despite the challenges facing the NHS, at the core of all our services are people who just want to do their very best for patients and that warmth, dedication and commitment really comes across – whether that’s performing life-saving surgery, delivering babies or serving up cups of tea on the wards. I’m very grateful to everyone who gave their time to help make this programme. Definitely worth a watch!

Celebrating Excellence Awards

Next Friday is our Celebrating Excellence Awards and an opportunity to recognise our staff, volunteers and charity supporters for all the work they do and to say thank you. Every single one of us plays a key role in making Newcastle Hospitals the excellent Trust it is and sometimes we need to stop for a moment and appreciate the part we all play.

This is now a key annual event in the calendar and thanks to the generosity of our reception sponsor Newcastle Health Innovation Partners and support of Newcastle Hospitals Charity, we will be holding a gala evening at the Civic Centre.

There are 15 award categories and – in honour of NHS 75 – we have included a Lifetime Achievement Award this year. Best of luck to all our finalists. You can find out more about our awards here.

People at our Heart Awards

This week we hosted our annual People at our Heart Awards – our staff and volunteer recognition scheme that enables patients, relatives, colleagues and the public, to express their gratitude and provide recognition for their outstanding efforts.

It’s a great opportunity for us to think about the achievements of our colleagues and teams and recognise the difference they make. Congratulations to this year’s overall winners who are:

  • Individual of the year – Charlotte Bratt, Staff Nurse Ward 21 Cardiothoracic ITU, Freeman Hospital
  • Team of the year – Dawn, Donna, Debbie & Joyce, Domestics at New Croft House
  • Volunteer of the year – Nicola Smith, Splish Splash Bounce Volunteer

Great North Run

The Great North Run takes place this Sunday (10 September) and is an important event for our charity which plays such an key role in supporting staff wellbeing, patient experience and innovation across the trust.

Good luck if you are taking part and if you are volunteering or supporting the trust’s clinical response next weekend can I say a huge thank you. If you would like to donate to Newcastle Hospitals Charity you can do so here.

Organ Donation Week

It’s Organ Donation Week from 18 to 24 September – an annual week-long campaign with the aim of raising awareness about the ongoing need for organ donors. On Monday (18 September) our team, along with North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, will welcome a group of cyclists to the Institute of Transplantation on the first stop of their 500-mile Transplant Tour from Edinburgh to Oxford to raise awareness of living kidney donation.

The group includes living donors and transplant recipients and a team baton will be passed from a kidney donor to a recipient, symbolising the giving and receiving of a kidney. You can read more here

Awards and Achievements

HSJ Awards – Many congratulations to the National Renal Complement Therapeutic Centre which has been shortlisted for the prestigious Acute Sector Innovation of the Year award at the HSJ Awards, recognising an outstanding contribution to healthcare.

This highly dedicated team of specialist aHUS nurses have had a transformative effect in preventing death from meningococcal sepsis in our patients and you can read more about their work here.

And finally…

A very happy 80th birthday to Maureen Olsen, a full-time domestic assistant at Peacock Hall.

Maureen has worked at the Trust for 25 years, is a huge Newcastle United fan and enjoys nothing more than spending time at her caravan. Many happy returns from us all.