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Wolverhampton’s service for sick and premature babies is first in region to strike gold

Wolverhampton’s service for sick and premature babies is leading the way after it became the first in the West Midlands to attain gold standard by a nationally-recognised organisation.

Neonatal staff with their gold award
Neonatal staff with their gold award

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust’s (RWT) neonatal intensive care unit at New Cross Hospital has received the gold award from Bliss Baby Charter, which offers a practical framework that units can assess themselves against.

RWT is the first hospital in the West Midlands Neonatal Operational Delivery Network – which covers neonatal units at 15 NHS hospitals in the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire – to achieve the honour.

The Bliss Baby Charter framework is now used by 93 per cent of neonatal units and it has become a nationally recognised tool referenced in the NHS England Neonatal Critical Care Review, and the Neonatal Critical Care Transformation Review.

RWT’s overall rating scored 96.3 per cent, demonstrating it has sufficient processes and facilities in place to deliver high-quality, family-centred care.

The award, which is valid for three years, is the culmination of six years’ hard work after Dawn Homer, who was neonatal manager at the time, applied for the first audit in 2017.

Among the initiatives that makes New Cross stand out is allowing six loved ones to be present on the unit, which allows siblings to be near their baby brother or sister, as well as other close relatives and/or carers, and payment of food and parking for parents.

Kerry Harnett, senior sister on neonatal, became lead for Bliss Baby Carter and Family Integrated Care in May 2022. She said: “I’m extremely proud to receive this award on behalf of the team, the babies and their families.

“It’s recognition for the unit, for the work we do, day-in, day-out, and for families it’s reassurance that we listen to them and make changes for the better.

“The award recognises the whole multi-disciplinary team including nurses, doctors, psychologists, physios and speech and language therapists, as we all work towards the same aim because we can’t do it in isolation.”

Martina Morris, deputy chief nursing officer at RWT, added: “Huge congratulations to the neonatal team on behalf of the executive team.

“We’re all very proud of you and your hugely positive approach to this in the care you provide for babies and their families.”

Stella Rranxi, Bliss Baby Charter programme officer, conducted the assessment and said: “We are delighted to accredit New Cross Hospital neonatal unit with its Baby Charter gold award.

“The passion, care, and commitment of staff shone through on assessment day. The team strives to involve families, both in their babies’ care and in helping to improve services on the unit overall.

“Strong multi-disciplinary team working – particularly involving allied health professionals and the unit’s psychologist as key members of the team – was evident.

“The team works hard to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for families, including siblings, and to ensure families can be on the unit as much as they are able to, by assisting with free parking and free hot meals.”

Parents and babies joined in the celebrations. Leo Shelton is now 12 weeks old after being born prematurely via a caesarean section at 37 weeks.

He had to be resuscitated and cared for in an incubator in the high dependency unit.

He then required intensive care after suffering jaundice and pneumonia. All this was delivered on the neonatal unit at New Cross.

His mum Nicola Chapman, 40, from, Chasetown, a senior healthcare assistant for a Brownhills day centre, said: “When Kerry rang me to tell me about the gold award I told her the team deserves it.

“We had fantastic care here. Whenever we came away from hospital, we knew Leo was being looked after and we weren’t worried that anything was going to happen to him.

“I had our daughter Lacey here in 2020 and there was never any problem with us all coming in. She was only two at the time but they made her feel comfortable and welcome and the staff were always asking about her.”

Kerry’s application for the silver award was successful in November last year before she applied for the gold award in June.

The unit has presented gold pens to all staff, while Bliss – in partnership with Sainsbury’s – have donated baby clothes to every baby on the unit and this will continue.

Neonatal now plans to introduce a parent’s advisory group, and acknowledges the recommendations made by Bliss following the assessment.

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