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Hospital video messaging service marks three years of improving patient experience

A video messaging service giving parents the chance to receive remote updates of their baby’s progress whilst in neonatal intensive care is celebrating its third anniversary.

University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) became the first Trust in the West Midlands to introduce ‘vCreate’ to its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Vcreate is a secure, online platform allowing staff to record and upload video and photo diaries for parents to access on their smartphone or tablet while they are away from the unit.

The service was made possible thanks to a grant from UHNM Charity and last year helped support 314 families with 1,475 photos and videos.

Anya Cornes, Senior Staff Nurse on NICU and lead for vCreate said: “Most people expect their pregnancies to go up to 40 weeks, so parents are not prepared for a premature arrival. Having a baby on NICU can affect them emotionally and put great strain on their everyday life.

“There are many reasons why parents are not able to remain with their baby in NICU, such as other children or family members at home needing care, work commitments and financial constraints. But vCreate has been a great advance in family integrated care and provides parents with reassurance and helps them to overcome the stress and anxiety of not always being present at the bedside.

“The system proved invaluable during Covid with visiting restrictions and really helped bond families together.”

One of the families benefitting from the vCreate system is Adam and Kerry-ann Thomas, both 34, from Clayton.

Their son Theodore was born at 27 weeks on 29 September weighing just 1lb 8oz.

Kerry-ann said: “Our first child was large at just over 9lbs and arrived early so they didn’t want us to go through that again. We went for a growth scan but they could see he was very small, and my blood pressure was through the roof. So the next thing we knew we were being put in an ambulance to the Maternity Unit at Royal Stoke.

“During an attempt to attach a catheter, Theodore’s heart rate dropped so we were quickly wheeled down to theatre for an emergency C-section. Theodore was taken straight to NICU with Adam whilst I recovered from the procedure.

“We don’t know why he had complications in the womb apart from my blood pressure, but for whatever reason he wasn’t growing as he should have done. Being born so young and quickly, Theodore’s lungs weren’t developed enough, so the ups and downs of our journey here in NICU has been trying to get his lungs to function as they need to so they can support him.

“He was also discovered to have Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a problem with his circulatory system that meant he required heart surgery. That surgery has been a turning point and ever since then he’s grown in length, put weight on and his lungs have improved.

“He now weighs 7lbs 4oz and we’re on the journey to going home together.”

Adam added: “The staff on NICU have been fantastic, not only with support for Theodore but for Kerry-ann and myself as well. Many times we’ve not wanted to leave him and go home, but we have another child to care for so we’ve had to go. Leaving him knowing he’s in their care is so reassuring. It gives us piece of mind to know that he’s being looked after so well.”

The vCreate system was also of benefit to Adam when he unfortunately tested positive for Covid and couldn’t visit the Unit.

He said: “vCreate has been brilliant. It’s very easy to use and we received regular photos and comments of Theodore during the early stages of his stay on NICU. It put your mind at ease on a bad day or when you don’t want to leave him alone with him being so poorly.

“Many a time we’d wake up early in the morning to an update on Theodore from the nurses and it sets the day off on a positive note knowing he’s had a good night.”

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