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Special Care Baby Unit £4m Revamp Now Cares For Parents Too

Published on: 3 Mar, 2021
Updated on: 5 Mar, 2021

Amy Stubbs, deputy director of midwifery and divisional head of nursing for women and children, cuts the ribbon at the launch. Other speakers in the photograph are, from left: Ross Dunworth, director of finance, Dr Mark Evans, deputy medical director and Ms Caroline Everden, labour ward lead consultant

A happy birth day was celebrated at the Royal Surrey hospital this week. That describes the ceremony on March 2 marking an innovative transformation of their maternity unit that will not only improve post-natal care but reduce trauma by helping parents stay close to their sick or premature baby 24 hours a day.

The £4 million refurbishment of the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) includes 10 dedicated bays where a parent can sleep next to their premature baby’s incubator, and a second obstetric theatre means extra capacity with a welcoming setting for women having elective caesareans.

The Royal Surrey’s SCBU is among the first in the UK to offer parents the chance to stay by their baby’s side and be more involved in their care during their hospital stay. Studies show this reduces distress for parents and babies, encourages bonding, builds parents’ confidence in their ability to care for their baby and helps start breastfeeding.

Days before a baby is ready to leave, parents can move into the SCBU’s family room to practise caring for their baby independently, with staff on stand-by to offer help.

The SCBU redevelopment was partly funded by a hugely popular “Closer to Care” campaign by the Royal Surrey Charity, raising more than £500,000 in about 18 months.

Parents of premature and sick babies who had been cared for by Royal Surrey’s SCBU, rallied together to hold fundraising events, including charity balls, bike rides, 24-hour spin-a-thons and more.

Sadie Elford, husband Rob, and friends and family, started fundraising after their baby was born prematurely. Sadie said: “Our daughter Sienna was five weeks early, weighing just three pounds, and so she had to be in the SCBU. The care and love Sienna and we as her parents received in the unit was truly amazing.

“When we found the hospital was raising funds to rebuild the unit to include space for beds for mums to be able to stay with their babies, we knew we had to help. This was the hardest thing for me. Leaving Sienna was like leaving a piece of my heart behind.

“So, we organised an eight-hour spin session and alongside some awesome friends and family, raised £14,000 to help.

“Having a parent stay by their baby overnight will make such a huge difference to families.”

Amy Stubbs is deputy director of midwifery and divisional head of nursing for women and Children. She said: “SCBU staff understand what a terrifying emotional rollercoaster parents are experiencing in the first few days, weeks and months after the birth of their poorly or premature baby and how normal life is suddenly put on hold.

“By giving parents the chance to stay close to their baby 24/7, hold them and care for them with guidance from staff, we know we can lessen the distress and worry for everyone.

“Parents get a better chance of being able to bond with their baby, there’s more opportunity to establish breastfeeding and a better recovery rate for babies. We can also help build mum and dad’s confidence about caring for their little one’s needs, which can be very daunting when a premature or sick baby is in an incubator attached to lots of wires and tubes.”

Mobolade Smith, mother to Kiki who is just four weeks old, said: “I’m so grateful to the amazing staff on SCBU. Everyone was so kind and reassuring when Kiki was born at 32 weeks. It was a very overwhelming and tearful time; unexpectedly having her early.

“Spending nights at SCBU made me feel more like a mum. The staff were encouraging and incredibly positive. They showed me how to look after Kiki by giving her skin-to-skin cuddles and they helped me not feel scared about picking her up.

“I stayed by Kiki’s side for 10 days before we brought her home and having that chance made a massive difference to my confidence. I could see her gaining weight and getting stronger and I had support with breastfeeding, which was so important to me.

“I’m forever grateful to all the lovely staff who looked after us and thank you so much.”

At the ceremony, Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey and Angela Richardson, MP for Guildford joined via a virtual link to give short speeches.

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