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Award-winning bereavement care

11 March, 2014

Award-winning bereavement care

Supporting a family that has lost a baby is a specialist and particularly challenging area of midwifery. A charity, which was set up by the devastated parents of a stillborn baby, has teamed up with the RCM to celebrate the best examples of bereavement care.
Midwives magazine: Issue 2 :: 2014

Supporting a family that has lost a baby is a specialist and particularly challenging area of midwifery. A charity, which was set up by the devastated parents of a stillborn baby, has teamed up with the RCM to celebrate the best examples of bereavement care.

Rachel and Andrew Canter

The National Maternity Support Foundation (NMSF) was set up following the tragic stillbirth of Jake Canter in 2005.

Although the pregnancy had been normal and labour was progressing well, it seemed that the heartbeat of Rachel and Andrew Canter’s baby had dropped so, as a precaution, the decision was taken to transfer from the midwife-led unit to hospital.

But, instead of the seven-minute blue-light to Barnet Hospital that the couple had expected, it was a 27-minute journey to Enfield because Barnet’s maternity unit was closed.

Jake was born in Enfield’s Chase Farm Hospital, but sadly did not survive.

In September 2006, Andrew and Rachel launched the campaign ‘Keep Hospitals Open’ to ensure Jake did not die in vain. The success was such that the couple decided to set up a charity to look at supporting maternity as a whole and NMSF was launched in March 2007.

Also known as Jake’s Charity, it has close links with the RCM and Andrew says a focus on bereavement care was a natural choice when it became apparent that it was not represented at the RCM’s Annual Midwifery Awards.

‘Having experienced excellent bereavement care following the tragic stillbirth of Jake, we decided that it was time to raise awareness of this specialist area of midwifery and reward those midwives who undertake this challenging role,’ says Andrew.

For the past five years, the NMSF Excellence in Bereavement Care and Training Award has been presented at the RCM Annual Midwifery Awards.

For more information, visit: jakescharity.org

Jake’s Journal

Jake’s Journal tells the stories of those midwives who have benefited from receiving funding through Jake’s Scholarship, which is part of the NMSF Excellence in Bereavement Care and Training Award.

The journal provides an update on how the funding helped to improve services.
NMSF chairman Andrew Canter says: ‘Jake’s Journal has been created to showcase the incredibly challenging work of bereavement midwives.’

Jake’s Scholarship enables a midwife with at least five years’ experience to undertake education and training into bereavement care, with the aim of improving care to women and families. 

Once qualified, the midwife is designated one of Jake’s Midwives and required to provide a follow-up report to NMSF and the RCM on how the bursary is distributed and the changes it has enabled.

The journal aims to act as inspiration to midwives across the UK. It is an important record of best practice to be shared across the NHS.

Jake's midwives

Jayne Welch and Barbara Hanson

Jayne Welch and Barbara Hanson, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Winning Jake’s Scholarships meant Jayne and Barbara could transform bereavement care in their directorate.

A team of midwives and nurses has been developed, which is responsible for maintaining bereavement care. Previously this was segregated, with each area working in isolation.

There are specifically designed care pathways, which has improved the quality of parents’ care and experience. A counselling service with unlimited sessions is available to all family members, and much of the constructive feedback from parents has been used to make parent-led changes.

Jayne has completed a bereavement awareness certificate and Barbara has completed a certificate in counselling supervision.

Jenny Gregory

Jenny Gregory, Wansbeck Maternity Unit at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Since becoming a Jake’s Midwife, Jenny has undertaken a bereavement counselling course and has ensured that a session on bereavement care has been added to an annual, mandatory study day for all staff in the trust.

Jenny has updated the maternity unit guidelines to show the gold standard for bereavement care, and a specialist team has been set up to ensure it is maintained.

Jake’s Scholarship has provided funding for training for lots of midwives and neonatal nurses within the unit. It has also funded training for a professional photographer to specialise in working with bereaved families. 

The photographs provide mementoes for families and midwives are confident to encourage the service.

Hilary Patterson

Hilary Patterson, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland

Hilary set up the bereavement support midwife post in December 2003 – the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The service provides confidential support to couples grieving the loss of their baby following miscarriage, neonatal death or stillbirth.

The directorate’s multidisciplinary team is trained in communication skills and breaking bad news, and bereavement care pathways have been developed in each area, providing a framework of choice for parents.

Hilary also established the ‘Forget Me Not’ committee of bereaved parents to improve the experience of parents who have been bereaved. The group has an invaluable role in educating staff.

Sharon Hurst

Sharon Hurst, Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust

Sharon has done outstanding work as part of the bereavement team, which provides support for women and families both at the time of the loss and after.

The team aims to provide a holistic service to women and families by providing support that is empathetic, while enabling them to take some positive memories away from one of the most traumatic and difficult times in their lives.

Sharon’s professionalism and quality care in helping families in such tragic and upsetting circumstances reveals her exceptional qualities as both an individual and a midwife. She demonstrates what it means to ‘go the extra mile’.

Heulwen Harden and Stephanie Williams

Heulwen Harden and Stephanie Williams, Hywel Dda University Health Board in Wales

Heulwen and Stephanie have organised charity events to raise funds to furnish a private environment for families. They have worked with the hospital chaplain to coordinate a yearly remembrance service for loved and lost babies.

Using the funds from Jake’s Scholarship, they hope to educate and support the whole maternity team to boost confidence in dealing with bereaved families, as midwives who are not regularly involved with these tragic events often feel inadequate.

They also hope to enhance working relationships with the consultant obstetrician, mortuary staff and the registrar of births and deaths to ensure good communication and to help parents cope with their incredibly difficult situation.

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