In 2009, November 17th officially became World Prematurity Awareness Day. This was 3 days before my own daughter born prematurely at 27 weeks gestation officially (I still maintain it was 26 weeks) came home following her 11 week hospital stay.
2011 saw me become a campaigner for Bliss, a UK premature baby charity so I wanted to do something which would not only mark World Prematurity Day, but raise as much awareness as possible, which is why I am running the Prematurity Awareness 2011 campaign.
Over the course of the next 2 weeks I will be including lots of guest stories, profiles and interviews from a number of inspirational mums dads and professionals, all of whom want to do their bit to help raise awareness of the issues surrounding babies born dangerously soon.
Today I would like to start off with a great post from Bliss's Head of Communications, Kellie Stewart on her role and why she feels so passionately about it.
Something you may not know
Many of you will be familiar with the campaigning work of Bliss through this blog and Christina’s great support for our work. Since it’s November already and World Prematurity Day is just around the corner, I thought you might be interested in some of the other things we’ve been up to at Bliss this year.
I work in the Media Team at Bliss and I enjoy my job as I know the work we do here is making a difference to tiny babies and their families. My favourite thing about working at Bliss is the incredible privilege of hearing stories from amazing and inspiring mum’s and dad’s who have experienced the challenge of having a poorly or tiny baby in special care. I work with a really dedicated group of people and something interesting is always going on in our London HQ. No two days are the same.
This year we’ve entered into a new and exciting project where we’ll be funding Bliss Nurses all around the UK. It’s an ambitious project and we hope to have a minimum of 28 nurses in post by the end of 2020. These nurses will provide direct support to families going through the difficult and challenging experience of having their baby in special care. The Bliss Nurses will provide support and information to parents about things like breastfeeding, kangaroo care and ensuring the right information and facilities are available for them. We know that supporting families of premature and sick babies in hospital, when they most need it, has many benefits for these babies. They may spend less time in hospital and have less chance of returning, as well as a better chance of establishing important breastfeeding, which in turn can also help with the bonding process. You might be asking if it is right for us to be funding nurses – shouldn’t that be the job of the NHS? The short answer is yes, we wish the NHS was providing this support service, but the reality is that hospitals are understaffed and overstretched already and parents have told us that while their baby receives excellent care from nurses and doctors, support is lacking for them. The first nurse started at St George’s hospital in Tooting in June, (a Family Centred Care Coordinator jointly organised with First Touch, the charity for neonatal care at the hospital) and we are currently recruiting for the second post in Norwich.
Recently we were lucky to receive a volunteering grant from the Department of Health to help us expand our volunteer programme all around the UK, reaching babies and families everywhere. The three years of funding is going to help us forge ahead with this exciting programme of work which will help us establish at least four more regional offices. The volunteer’s main focus will be to increase and enhance the support to recent parents from other families who have been through a similar experience of having a premature or sick baby. Our network of Family Support Groups will expand so that there is one available locally for every intensive care centre in the country.
We really do need everyone’s help to stop ruthless cuts to neonatal nursing jobs so I wanted to echo Christina’s blog post about our recent media campaign. Our research found that a third of neonatal units in England are cutting their nursing workforce by making posts redundant, freezing vacancies or down banding posts (demoting nurses already in post or replacing nurses who leave, with less qualified nurses). This is affecting the care that these tiny babies get. We want NHS Trusts to stop making short sighted cuts and instead, find ways to make services run more efficiently, while providing high quality care. We know there’s no quick fix solution but investing in neonatal services is vital. You can take action by emailing your MP to help us in our campaign to stop these cuts.
All of this really comes back to our purpose as a charity which is that we exist to ensure that all babies born too soon, too small or too sick in the UK have the best possible chance of survival and of reaching their full potential.
So that was a (very) whistle stop tour of some of the exciting and interesting things that we’ve been up to but if you’d like more information about Bliss visit www.bliss.org.uk or if you’ve been affected by issues around having a premature baby you can call Bliss’ dedicated Family Support Helpline on 0500 618 140.
Please come back tomorrow for another excellent contribution, and please please share these posts via Facebook and Twitter, +1 them, anything to help us to increase awareness.