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Helping 'Parents be parents'

Neonatal care describes the care of newborns, usually under a month old; the most fragile of lives and the most precious of babies to their proud parents. 

Every year in the UK around 80,000 babies require neonatal care, including those diagnosed with a life-limiting condition in pregnancy and others, whose parents have received the news after their baby is born.  Of those tiny babies who die in the first year, 97% do so in hospital.  Acorns Children’s Hospice in the West Midlands is working hard to offer families a different option and more support in these situations with the introduction of their neonatal care service.

Working closely with local maternity hospitals and neonatal units, lead nurse at Acorns in Birmingham, Julie Peers, encourages families to be referred to use their specialist care and support.

“There is a gap where we receive referrals late on when parents are really struggling so we’re trying to get to them before they get to that point and offer more support,” says Julie. 

Facilities for neonatal care at the hospice include a self-contained flat – a safe haven where parents can spend family time with their child in a relaxed environment, but in the knowledge that care is close at hand if required.  Realising that they can cope can give parents the confidence to take their newborn home to continue caring for them, with full backup from the Acorns team at the end of the phone and an open door policy to return when necessary.

“In a hospital environment, they have probably always had a nurse stood next to them – they’ve probably never been alone with their baby and had that one-to-one time.  We are able to give them that opportunity but also the chance to invite other family members to visit, without the restrictions often associated with a hospital setting.” 

Julie has 18 years’ experience of working in neonatal units prior to joining Acorns and is part of a national group of neonatal lead nurses in hospices who learn from each other and share ideas.  She says that it’s the extra special things that their service can offer that make a huge difference to parents, enabling them to make special memories.

“We had a little girl whose mum was really looking forward to taking her shopping. The girl died at around two weeks old but mum was able to take her to the shops before then with Acorns support. They bought an outfit because that’s what mum really wanted to do.

Another family wished to celebrate their daughters two-week birthday – they held a party at Acorns with cake, balloons and cards and took lots of photographs – now treasured memories as their little girl died just a few days later”.

Your support is helping wonderful people like Julie to continue their specialist roles, making a huge difference to the families touched by such immeasurable sadness and, as Julie says, helping ‘parents be parents’.
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