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Keep Me Close accommodation opens for Plymouth parents

Image Friday 15 November marked a very special day for hundreds of fundraisers, parents and the neonatal team at Derriford Hospital. The 'Keep Me Close' parental accommodation for parents whose babies are in the care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was officially opened.

The accommodation, which has been funded entirely by the ‘Keep Me Close’ appeal, is within walking distance of the hospital and will enable parents who are displaced away from their home hospital to be close to their babies.

Neonatal Fundraiser, Tracey Stacey said: “We've had fundraisers who have done lots of different things over the years – we've had skydiving, charity walks, cake sales, charity balls, raffles - we've even got wing-walking coming up. Our parents and supporters go beyond for us to raise funds so we can't thank them enough for what they do.”

Because of the nature of the babies cared for on the NICU ward, parents are encouraged to remain close by to promote bonding, maternal and paternal health as well as getting involved in their baby's care. During the time a baby is on the ward, as many parents as possiblImage by Matt Elliotte are accommodated on the ward in the existing on-site 4 bedroom flat based on the unit, which is only able to accommodate four sets of parents. This means there is often a financial burden from staying in alternative accommodation on parents at an already incredibly stressful time.

A recently published report from NHS England recommends that during periods of intensive care, sufficient accommodation should be available close to the neonatal unit, including resources to prepare meals, and quiet space. The report states that without such provisions, parents will face further stress to remain with their baby.

Senior Sister for the Neonatal Unit, Katie Hoffman said: “We provide care for all the sickest and smallest babies across Devon and Cornwall. These babies can be with us from a couple of hours, to a couple of nights, to up to about 16 weeks.

“During that time it's really important that parents have unlimited access to their babies, that they're involved in their babies care as much as possible and in order to do that we feel it's really important that we provide local accommodation to ensure and support that accesalts 24/7.”

It has long been the dream of the hospital staff to provide better accommodation for the parents of the babies they care for and to provide a greater number of rooms to enable all 'out of area' parents to remain on site for the duration of their baby’s care. The aim of the appeal was to create a 'home from home' to help to take away a small amount of this stress by enabling life to remain as normal as possible under the circumstances. The modern flat comprises of seven en-suite bedrooms, a kitchen and communal area with a view across Plymouth, the moors and sea, as well as Derriford Hospital and it’s maternity unit, therefore, keeping parents close to their babies.

Given the number of babies that the ward cares for, it is likely that the staff on the ward will continue to affect the lives of well over 1,000 babies a year from in and around the South West.

“We feel so privileged to have this opportunity to open the Keep Me Close Accommodation which is absolutely wonderful,” said NICU Nurse Consultant, Roisin McKeon Carter. “It will really support parents to be comfortable and have somewhere to rest, knowing that their babies are in our care just over the road.

“We'll still be relying on all the lovely parents and supporters to carry on fundraising for us so we can continue to provide the accommodation for future parents who need it. Thank you so much to everyone for making this possible.”

If you would like to donate to the Keep Me Close appeal, please visit plymouthhospitals.charitycheckout.co.uk/donate and use the reference, 'Keep Me Close'.

You can watch the video of the official opening here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx-j4NCC7zE 

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