COVID-19: An update on our response

Posted on December 29, 2020

The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across the neonatal community. Here's how we're responding to the latest situation to ensure premature and sick babies get the best care.

We know it continues to be 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 may be restricting access which means some parents have limited time with their baby and others may be unable 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

Soon after the start of the pandemic, we launched a face-to-face video call 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 to families – both on neonatal units and at home – across the UK. We are actively working on returning some volunteers to neonatal units where units and local restrictions allow, and only on units where parents have unlimited access to their babies.

Our email support line remains open and the number of enquiries to this service have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.

We produced COVID-19 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 funding, we were able to make a new printed booklet about going home from the neonatal unit available free of charge to families. We have also sent 'emergency information' packs of our free About Neonatal Care booklets to all units in the UK.

65,000

views of Bliss' COVID-19 information

194 units

received an emergency information pack from Bliss

Bliss were the first group we turned to when we wanted advice on how to keep our premature daughter safe. They responded within hours, providing up-to-date information and support.

Scott

Speaking up for babies and their families

Since the start of the pandemic, Bliss has been highlighting the impact of restricted parental access to neonatal units through its Parents aren’t visitors campaign, and has been calling for a national directive to support a return to unrestricted access for parents with babies in neonatal care. An update to Guidance from NHS England on supporting women using maternity services during COVID-19, issued in December 2020, included recommendations for neonatal services for the first time.

The guidance is a step towards a more consistent approach to parent access and sends a strong message to NHS Trusts that parents must be supported to be partners in delivering their baby’s neonatal care.

We are grateful to all the parents, health professionals and supporters who joined Bliss’ campaign to secure this vital new guidance, and would now urge NHS Trusts to work closely with their neonatal teams to review their current parental access policies as a matter of urgency.

Our position has been widely welcomed and we’ve already seen some network-wide policy changes as a result. We have also developed letters of support for neonatal units to use to help them with challenging their own Trusts' local access policies.

We are currently campaigning to get emergency Neonatal Leave and Pay introduced as soon as possible as this support is vital during financially uncertain times.

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 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 look set to be impacted into 2021 – and companies who are 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.

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.

Our response: March - June 2020

Read how we've responded to service user needs and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic

Our response: July - September 2020

Read how we've responded to service user needs and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic