Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice first began providing care to children and families in West Yorkshire in 2010 through its hospice at home service, opening its state-of-the-art building Russell House in December 2012.
In April 2014 the charity appointed a neonatal in-reach coordinator, Emma Bleasdale, to lead the charity’s new neonatal and antenatal service. This appointment was made possible thanks to funding from St. James’ Place Foundation and Hospice UK (then called Help the Hospices).
Describing her role, Emma explains: “My main objective is to ensure families who are expecting, or who have had, a baby with a life-shortening condition are offered choice; choice about their place of care, choice about the place of death and choice about ensuring their baby and family are cared for in their preferred way.
“We will do whatever it takes for a family to achieve their wishes for their baby.”
Families are offered support from point of diagnosis (which can be as early as 14 weeks into pregnancy), through pregnancy, birth and beyond.
This can include support at scans, fetal medicine meetings and during delivery and providing accommodation for respite or end of life care at Russell House.
“The most precious things we can offer to families is time,” explains Emma. “At Russell House we have the amazing opportunity to offer parents and families time with their baby when they have sadly died.
“Our Snowflake Suite is a beautiful self-contained family suite where families can stay with their child right up until the funeral, offering time for family members to visit and parents to make special memories they may not have thought they would get the chance to do, with our care team are on hand to offer support 24/7.”
Growth and development of the service
The neonatal and antenatal service at Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice has gone from strength to strength – with a huge increase in referrals.
In the last 24 months the hospice has supported 49 babies and their families, 38 of these in the last 12 months.
In the twelve months prior to the introduction of the new service, the hospice received just one referral for a newborn baby from a hospital.
The increase in referrals is largely due to an increased awareness of the service among local healthcare professionals, which in turn is due to the development of stronger relationships with local hospitals.
The hospice is now developing the service so that it can support even more families, and has been presented with an opportunity to expand its neonatal support to families across Bradford.
“Having just recruited another full-time neonatal nurse and plans being in place around further roles within our perinatal team, the potential number of families we will be able to support will only continue to grow,” said Emma.
“Recently we have begun running antenatal support groups and have just started a parent and baby support group too, allowing families to meet other families experiencing similar journeys.”
The hospice’s vision is to become even more embedded within local healthcare services and make sure every healthcare professional in West Yorkshire knows what they can offer, in turn helping more families to get the care they deserve.
Reflecting on her role, Emma said: “It sounds a little strange but I absolutely love my job.
“From my point of view it’s simple; I cannot change the diagnosis a baby has but what I and the fantastic team here at Forget Me Not can do is ensure that no family is alone, they are helped along their journey, listened to and understood.
“I have been in the most privileged position that anyone could ever be in. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the most amazing families who show strength and courage beyond imagination and of course their beautiful babies.
“I will remember each and every one of them, their lives may have been very short or they may have never taken a breath but what they have taught me will stay with me for a lifetime.”