A new project will enable parents in Sussex to be more closely involved in their babies’ care in order to support closer bonding, a reduction in anxiety and earlier discharge from hospital.
Researchers from Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) led by Professor Heike Rabe, Professor of Perinatal Medicine, and the neonatal clinical implementation team led by Consultant Dr Nikolay Drenchev and Matron Claire Hunt from Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) have joined forces to develop the teaching and training project for staff and parents.
In addition, Professor Rabe and Dr Natalia Ivashikina from BSMS will analyse the health economics benefits this could bring.
This research partnership is part of a new international neonatology research group that has received a prestigious grant from Horizon 2020 programme, the biggest EU research and innovation programme, which has made €80billion of funding available for seven years from 2014 to 2020.
Commenting on the formation of the research group, Professor Rabe said: “This is an exciting new collaboration which brings together researchers in Sussex with international links all around the world. The early findings suggest this model of care could be really beneficial for staff in NICUs and parents bonding with new-born babies by reducing anxiety. The project is an example on how BSMS’ and BSUH’s partnership goes beyond their collaboration in teaching future clinical staff for the NHS and contributes to improving the care of patients here in Sussex and internationally.”
“Through this model of care, parents will be able to take care of their baby under the supervision of the nurses, providing the feeds, some of the oral medications, skin care and other roles that nurses would usually do. The parents would then be part of the ward round, report any observations of their baby and be involved in the decision making for the treatment plan. We hope that by involving parents more as part of the care team it will benefit everyone.”
Dr Drenchev, Consultant at BSUH’s Trevor Mann Baby Unit, added: “The team is privileged and excited to work in collaboration with BSMS team led by Prof Rabe to implement family integrated care in our neonatal intensive care unit. This project will help parents and families in Sussex and wider regions to have better experience through their babies’ hospital stay. We hope that will lead to better growth and reduced infections for our premature babies and will shorten their hospital stay.”
Claire Hunt, Matron, said: “This is a really exciting project to be a part of and I am looking forward to seeing the benefits that working alongside BSMS in developing our family integrated care model will bring to our neonatal service, the babies that we care for and their families. Not only this but working alongside Professor Rabe and BSMS has opened the door to allow our nursing team the opportunity to participate in this international study.”
The research group is part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions researcher exchange programme (MSCA-RISE) and will be coordinated by Dr Adelina Pellicer, Head of the Research Group in Neonatology at La Paz University Hospital in Madrid, and also includes researchers from Mount Sinai in Canada, Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam, Holtz Children's Hospital of the University of Miami in the USA; Cluj-Napoca County Hospital in Romania; Gazi University Hospital in Turkey and the University Hospital of Zambia, among others. Both BSMS and BSUH will welcome visiting staff from the other consortium members as part of exchange visits, which will provide an opportunity for research and learnings to be shared and benefit future new-borns and their families.
This international research project is based on the implementation of Family Integrated Care (FICareTM), which tries to improve the prognosis of the high-risk newly born babies admitted for prolonged periods in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The FICare model is centred around training parents to be the main caregivers of their baby during the time of admission to the NICU, while the health staff act as teachers and guides. The data obtained on the FICare model to date shows that better health outcomes are achieved in the short term, as well as a positive impact on the psychological status of parents and NICU staff, who are often subjected to a highly stressful environment with a high degree of professional and empathic burnout.
The project will be developed over a four-year period, beginning in September 2021 due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.