NHS’ 75th Anniversary
As we begin to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our brilliant NHS on 5th July, it is a kind reminder of how far the first universal health system has come and how much we still need it today.
To highlight the exceptional work of neonatal care teams, Julie and James reflect on the birth of their twins, Harry and Jack, at Kings College Hospital in London.
“As parents of premature twins, who required extensive treatment and care in a neonatal unit, we have seen first-hand how vital this service is and how much it has changed to improve the outcomes for many babies and their families.
We sadly lost Harry after 20 days and Jack spent 208 days on the unit. But we made a lot of friends during that time: nurses, doctors, cleaners, technicians and other parents and their families. The most memorable moments were the friendship we formed, especially with other parents going through the same journey, sharing our rollercoaster of a journey, the ups and downs and finally going home. At that time, we had each other for support.
Once home, we felt a sense of isolation and loneliness because of the need to protect Jack from catching viruses. He required full-time care that only we could give him. This meant a lack of social interaction with others.
Since then, the main change we have seen in the NHS is the introduction of Family Integrated Care. Parents are treated as equal partners with medical professionals in the care of their babies on the unit. Additionally, peer support from parents that experienced neonatal care helps current inpatient parents. This is a vital service that is becoming increasingly available on units.
This is the reason why being an Ambassador and Fundraiser for the Ickle Pickles Children’s Charity has meant so much to me. The opportunity to give back and be part of a Peer Support Group allows me to openly talk about our experience and offer support to other parents going through the same. I want parents to feel empowered, to use their voice and be confident about their baby’s care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They need to know that they are not alone. There is support out there.
Some neonatal units are now running Parents’ Groups or Coffee Mornings for parents still on the unit, whilst other units have opened this up to include current and past NICU parents. It would be great to see all units offering these Coffee Mornings or Peer Support Groups to all NICU parents, as parents who have been discharged also need the support once they are home.“
The advancement of life-saving technology has transformed neonatal care over the last few years. For example, the incubator has developed from a basic rectangular box, with access to the babies via small circular doors to the modern one, where the top and sides can easily be removed to access babies. These are key advances, especially for babies requiring emergency care whilst on the ward. This reduces the need to move and transport them to a surgical theatre. Thanks to the investment in this kind of neonatology and intensive care equipment, the survival rate for premature babies has risen significantly from under 50% in 1975 to over 90% today.
The NHS also introduced integrated care boards across 42 areas of England in 2022 to plan and deliver neonatal care services that are safer, more personalised and more equitable over the next year. At Ickle Pickles, we are proud to support Family Integrated Care and run a number of Peer Support Coffee Mornings. If you would like to join or support a coffee morning as a volunteer, please get in touch.
As we mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS we thank all neonatal staff and transport teams who work tirelessly to improve neonatal care and support families. We are working closely with neonatal staff every day and are pleased to support some of their celebratory tea parties. None of the outstanding care would be possible without the skill and expertise of all NHS staff. We asked some of the neonatal teams what this anniversary means to them:
“I have been a Neonatologist for 35 years and loved every minute of being able to help families when they are extremely helpless with their sick newborn.
Neonatal medicine has evolved hugely, so much so that 60 years ago, a baby born around 28 weeks' gestation had a 95% mortality. Today that is more than 95% intact survival with very good outcomes. It gives me great pleasure to see a happy family later and know that the team were a key part of that success story”, remarked Neonatal Consultant A Kundu.
F Herbert, Neonatal Services Coordinator, said: “Having worked in the NHS for 37 years, it is my vocation not just a job. My path led me through adult care to the last 27 years with Neonates both clinical and administration. There have been too many changes to list but patient care, whatever the age, has always been a priority.
There are and will continue to be many challenges to overcome to keep the NHS running effectively but there are dedicated staff working in all departments, front of house or behind the scenes who do an amazing job, regardless of their grade, to support the needs of the service. The Neonatal Unit has become my second family and I've worked alongside some wonderful staff who have also spent their working career in the NHS.”
Advanced Neonatal Nurse Practitioner L Govender, commented: “Working on the neonatal unit is like working with family. We support each other in good times and in bad, endeavouring to provide exceptional care for our babies and their families.”
These quotes show that we share the same dedication to improving neonatal care for the tiniest babies. But we cannot do it without your support.