COVID-19: An update on our response

Posted on May 12, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has intensified and the impact is being felt across the neonatal community. Here's how we're responding to the situation to ensure premature and sick babies get the best care.

It is a particularly anxious time for families with a baby born premature or sick. Due to measures to control the spread of COVID-19, neonatal units are restricting access which means some parents have limited time with their baby and others aren't able to visit at all. With reduced access to support networks, both on and off the unit, parents are also at greater risk of feeling isolated.

Adapting our services

We have launched a new one-to-one support service so that our trained volunteers – who would usually support more than 900 families on neonatal units every month – can provide parents with emotional and practical support via video call. This service is available now to units across the UK.

Our email support line remains open and the number of enquiries to this service has doubled in the last month.

We produced new information which is continually being updated with the latest guidance both for families currently on the unit, and for those at home who are feeling anxious about the health of their baby, especially those babies with medical conditions who may be at a higher risk of COVID-19.

We have also been posting more support content on our social media channels, so that our followers feel less isolated and more informed about how to care for their child during this challenging time.

Thanks to our corporate partner WaterWipes, we have also been able to send an emergency mail-out of our printed information to all neonatal units across the UK ensuring that families have access to information they can trust, as well as signposting to our support services.

18,000

people have read Bliss' COVID-19 information

194 units

received an emergency information pack from Bliss

Speaking up for babies and their families

Through our Parents are not Visitors campaign, we are calling on the Government to introduce a version of neonatal leave and pay sooner than planned as it’s now even harder for parents to be with their baby and to be involved in their care. We’re also pushing for extra financial support for families in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, similar to the fund already available in Scotland, to help them through the crisis.

In response to many neonatal units limiting parental access and involvement in their baby’s care we are strongly urging hospitals to review their policies. Our position statement recognises the significant impact that parental involvement in a baby’s care has on their immediate and long-term outcomes.

Our recommendations include ensuring that both parents have access to their baby, not restricting the number of hours a parent can be with their baby each day, and rapid testing for symptomatic parents to reduce unnecessary separation. Our position has been widely welcomed and we’ve already seen some network-wide policy changes as a result. It has also helped to shape BAPM’s guidance for healthcare professionals on parental access.

Stephen's story

To minimise the spread of COVID-19, neonatal units have changed their visiting policies and in Stephen’s case, that means only his wife can see their baby.
Read I might not be able to see my baby for three months – Stephen’s story

Emergency fundraising

Like many organisations, we've closed our office and our team are delivering work and services from home.

To reduce our costs in the immediate term, we have furloughed nearly 25% of our staff, and reduced the hours of a further 10%. This was a difficult decision to make but one which we hope will ensure Bliss can continue to support premature and sick babies through this crisis and beyond.

60% of our income comes from people who take part in fundraising events – many of which have been cancelled or postponed due to lockdown restrictions - and companies who are already feeling the impact of COVID-19.

We've developed new virtual and home-based fundraising activities so that our supporters can continue to raise funds, and we're so grateful for the incredible response so far. But we're still facing a big fundraising challenge.

To help, we’ve launched an emergency fundraising appeal and we hope our dedicated supporters and partners will donate to help keep our services running now and in the future. If you can, please donate towards our services.