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Plans for US-style project for parents with babies in neonatal intensive care units

Applications for the Sweeney Programme are being sought from UK NICUs for the first time
Picture of a newborn in a neonatal care unit

Applications for the Sweeney Programme are being sought from UK neonatal intensive care units for the first time

Involving patients in the design of care is one of the ambitions of the NHS. But getting parents involved in such a highly-pressurised and fast-paced area as neonatal intensive care is easier said than done.

However, the Point of Care Foundation is offering units the chance to do this by introducing its Sweeney Programme to neonatal services in the UK.

The programme aims to encourage patients and staff to co-design improvements. It has been running since 2017 and has worked with more than 50 different services, including a number of childrens teams.

Projects include improving the care of children with abdominal pain at Alder

...

Applications for the Sweeney Programme are being sought from UK neonatal intensive care units for the first time

Picture of a newborn in a neonatal care unit
Picture: Alamy

Involving patients in the design of care is one of the ambitions of the NHS. But getting parents involved in such a highly-pressurised and fast-paced area as neonatal intensive care is easier said than done.

However, the Point of Care Foundation is offering units the chance to do this by introducing its Sweeney Programme to neonatal services in the UK.

The programme aims to encourage patients and staff to co-design improvements. It has been running since 2017 and has worked with more than 50 different services, including a number of children’s teams.

Projects include improving the care of children with abdominal pain at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital’s emergency department in Liverpool, and the support given to children with asthma and their families admitted to Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands.

Sweeney Programme helps nurses see services through the eyes of patients

The neonatal programme is now open for applications and, depending on the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic, is due to be launched in the autumn.

It follows a successful collaboration last year with the Vermont Oxford Network (VON) in the United States.

The project involved 64 units and saw the charity run face-to-face workshops and webinars to support change.

The basic ethos of the Sweeney Programme is to help staff see services through the eyes of patients.

A technique commonly used by the programme involves getting staff to watch films where patients talk about their experiences and the changes they would like to make.

In the US it led to a host of small-scale changes, from using whiteboards in babies’ rooms to aid communication with parents and reducing noise levels by using alternative monitors to introducing family support groups and parent mentors (recruited from parents who had previously had babies in neonatal intensive care).

Involving families in the neonatal care process

Picture of Julie Metcalf
Julie Metcalf

VON neonatal nurse practitioner Julie Metcalf says the project has changed the way she interacts with parents.

‘Over the last decade, the culture has been evolving to a more family-centred approach, but it took the approach one step further by ingraining the family in the process.’

Families, she says, are now seen as an ‘integral part of the team’.

In the UK, the Point of Care Foundation wants to run a series of collaborative projects involving up to six teams. The cost for each service will be £5,000. This covers three workshops spaced over the course of six to nine months with monthly coaching calls in between. Bespoke programmes can also run for individual trusts.

Point of Care Foundation director Bev Fitzsimons says the collaborative projects are a great way to share learning. ‘They work well. We try to group them together in similar areas of the country and find the ideas and changes they make are shared between each really well.’

Involving different members of the multidisciplinary team

Picture of Bev Ftzsimons
Bev Fitzsimons

Up to six people can be sent on the workshops, with the aim of involving different members of the multidisciplinary team.

Ms Fitzsimons adds: ‘Staff get a such a lot of out of the whole process. When you are doing your day job it’s not always easy to get time to consider these things.

‘But at the end of the day staff in this area of care are motivated about providing the best care they can to families. This allows them to do just that – and get back to those core values.

‘We aim to give them the tools to go back to their organisations and introduce change.’

To find out more and apply for the programme email Point of Care Foundation director Bev Fitzsimons at bevfitzsimons@pointofcarefoundation.org.uk

Nick Evans is a health journalist


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