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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Maternity bereavement suite opens at Cumberland Infirmary

Maternity bereavement suite opens at Cumberland Infirmary

Posted on Wednesday 23rd December 2015
Snowdrop Suite

Staff and fundraisers in the Snowdrop Suite

A dedicated bereavement suite for parents who have lost a child during pregnancy or soon after birth has been created in the Maternity department at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

The Maternity department secured funding of £170,000 from the Department of Health’s ‘Improving Maternity Services’ initiative, whereby units had to submit bids for funding for projects that would improve patient experience and help address the needs of vulnerable groups. North Cumbria University Hospitals’ bid was successful after setting out how the project would create a better environment for bereaved families, improving their privacy and dignity, while also improving the workplace for members of staff.

And the project was boosted by almost £10,000 raised by parents who have lost a child, and their loved ones, and the Trust’s charitable funds. Parents were asked which name they liked best for the facility and the Snowdrop Suite was chosen.

The entrance to the Maternity department has been remodelled to make better use of wasted corridor space. A new door has been put in, the reception desk has been relocated, and walls have been moved to create the Snowdrop Suite. This features a bedroom, with a pull out double bed, allowing bereaved parents to stay as long as they need to and spend some precious time with their baby; and a sitting room for family members, with a sofa, TV and coffee machine, all in a peaceful environment.

The project has been led by Andrea Ewing, specialist pregnancy loss midwife at the Cumberland Infirmary, and matron Chris Bird.

Andrea explained: “The dedicated bereavement suite will provide a much better environment for parents who have lost a baby. Previously we just used a room on labour ward, whereas having a dedicated space will protect patients’ privacy and dignity and give them as much time as they need to make precious memories with their baby.

“Parents will feel comforted that their baby can stay with them in the bedroom, in a special cold cot, rather than having to go down to the mortuary.”

The pull down bed means the room can be used for other purposes when not in use, such as for parents who want to come back and talk about their birth experience, and staff meetings. It could also be used to accommodate a father whose child is in the special care baby unit, for example.

The sitting room is just next door and provides a comfortable environment for families to wait. “Parents may have other children with them, or other family members, so this gives them somewhere where they can just sit or watch TV, away from the rest of the hospital,” Andrea said. “Crucially, the bereavement suite is all self-contained, with direct access into the hospital without having to come through the Maternity department, meaning they are less likely to see babies and pregnant women.”

The work to remodel the department also means the reception area is bigger and brighter than before, with a larger office for staff. The waiting room for patients coming in to the day assessment unit has been expanded, and a new staff training room created.

The department held an open day on Saturday, 5 December, inviting those who have lost a baby in the past couple of years, including many who have raised funds for the improvements, to have a look round. Members of staff and volunteers from the Mothers’ Union who knit clothes for babies in the unit were also invited.

Andrea added: “We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our fundraisers and for all the support our past bereaved parents and families have given us through the building of the suite. We have had fantastic support from local businesses, donating prizes for fundraising events. Thanks must also go to the Mothers’ Union for all the items they knit for us, and East Cumbria SANDS group for all their support.”

A book of remembrance, where anyone who has lost a baby or child can leave a message, has been set up in the chapel on the first floor at the Cumberland Infirmary.

A bereavement suite for cases of non-perinatal loss is due to open at the Cumberland Infirmary in the New Year. Read about that here.