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Plymouth NICU achieves Bliss silver award

3 NICU nurses

3 NICU nurses The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team based at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth have been awarded the Bliss Baby Charter Silver Award. Multiple audits and a recent pre-assessment meeting found the care given to families and babies to be exemplary.

Derriford’s NICU has been involved with Bliss, the charity for premature and sick babies, since 2017. After initially achieving a pledge of improvement in 2019, the team went on to be awarded the Bronze Award in 2021 and most recently the Silver Award in May 2022.

Bliss was set up in 1979. Its vision is simply that every baby born prematurely or sick in the UK has the best chance of survival and quality of life. They work hand in hand with healthcare professionals to ensure family centred care on the neonatal unit is of the highest possible standard. In 2009 the charity introduced different levels of award to recognise the progress and commitment of every unit working hard to implement and improve family centred care, something that Derriford’s NICU team have done exceptionally well.

Something Bliss was particularly inspired by in Plymouth’s NICU was the support given from the FAB (family and baby) team who are external to the hospital and come in twice per week. They help families who may be facing financial hardship to help them to obtain things such as monetary aid and nursery support. This is not something that is standard across all hospitals and the team at Derriford are honoured to be able to provide this service to parents.   

Roisin McKeon-Carter, Neonatal Nurse Consultant at University Hospitals Plymouth, said: “I am extremely proud of the team and the ethos that they have driven to ensure families are always at the heart of care in the NICU. No one plans to have a sick baby. We want to protect parents from the trauma and make their journey as good as possible to help get them through it.” 

Data from the 2020 NNAP (National Neonatal Audit Programme) highlights just how remarkable Derriford’s care is. A key finding was that whilst the average number of days of separation for late and preterm babies across England and Wales was 6.3 days, it is only 1.7 days in Plymouth. The days of separation for babies born at term is also above average at 1.1 days of separation with the average benchmark for England and Wales being 2.8 days in line with the NHSE ATAIN (Avoiding Term Admissions to NICU).

A large part of the team’s success in this is their efforts to keep mothers close to their babies. Those who need postnatal care stay in the ward next to the NICU and parents who did not need to stay in the hospital are close to the hospital in free accommodation provided by the Keep Me Close appeal.

Roisin said: “We ensure there is never any discrimination, and all families are taken care of and treated equally.”

Parents are truly at the centre of everything that the NICU team does - they want to create an environment that feels like a ‘home from home’ for parents. They provide families with free accommodation, free food, free parking, free Wi-Fi, access to emotional support and much more.

The above and beyond care for families often goes the extra mile. In December 2021 Keep Me Close Appeal Fundraiser, Tracey Stacey contacted a local celebrity chef and arranged for a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings to be donated to the families staying in local accommodation. The food was provided by Keep Me Close so that families could have a proper Christmas dinner whilst being away from home and have a sense of normality during a stressful time. Baby Arlo cuddling mum Chelsey

The team have also made sure that information is easily accessible to families, whether it is useful material from the PNTS (Peninsula Neonatal Transport Service) team ahead of a baby's transfer to Derriford such as virtual ward tours, to all the information easily accessible to parents on the walls of the NICU ward. This includes inspirational boards such as the ‘Once Upon A Time’ display that is full of positive stories from former patients, to give them hope that their babies will go on to live normal and healthy lives. Something particularly of note is the ward's QR code tree, which is a beautiful display of information that new parents might need and accompanying QR codes for them to access the correct material with ease.

Roisin adds: “Having this information so readily available for parents is important to the team as they want them to feel as confident as possible when they take their babies home. Their success is our success.

“Receiving the award makes us feel ‘warm and fuzzy inside’. The care we provide parents is simply our job and what we would do regardless. Having ‘fresh eyes’ praise the work we are doing gives the team confidence in their work and has made them feel supported to keep giving an excellent level of care and to strive for the Bliss Gold Award, something we believe is well within reach for this outstanding team.”

To find out more about Plymouth NICU, please visit: 

For further information about the Bliss charter, please visit:


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