Our Christmas appeal

Help Rockinghorse to improve post-natal care of newborn babies within the Sussex community...

“My name is Kelly and I am the Community Midwifery Manager for BSUH. My team of 75 community midwives cover an area of 500 square miles throughout Sussex, and we work from either Brighton, or the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

We also visit GP surgeries and children’s centres and look after 6,000 mums and babies every year throughout their pregnancies and births. We then check on families once they are home. It is a wonderful job, and a privilege to look after new families during what can be both an amazing, and overwhelming, time in their lives.

One of the most serious conditions we look out for in newborns is jaundice. This is a build-up of bilirubin – a waste product created by excess red blood cells breaking down in the body. If left untreated, jaundice can cause organ failure and brain damage, so it is imperative treatment is received as soon as possible after diagnosis. 

Jaundice can be very common in the first few days of life, as a baby’s system adapts to life outside of the womb. This type of jaundice usually resolves itself naturally over a few days. However, if the levels of jaundice are too high this can be an indication of a genetic or intestinal disorder, a serious condition such as cystic fibrosis, or a blood-type incompatibility. If left untreated, jaundice can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage.

Early treatment can make all the difference, so if a community midwife or support worker suspects jaundice, our current course of action is to refer the baby immediately to the Accident & Emergency Department (A&E) for assessment. This is often only a day or two after the family have been discharged from hospital following birth and can lead to traumatic journeys and long waits in hospital.

On arrival at A&E, the baby will have a simple meter reading test to measure bilirubin levels in the blood. While some babies are admitted for further treatment, the vast majority of newborns will have a normal bilirubin reading and be sent home. However, the whole experience will have exposed mum and baby to a risk of infections, and possibly a very long wait for a simple procedure.

My team carry out approximately 40-60 home visits every day across the county, and due to how common mild jaundice is, lots of babies are being referred for a bilirubin test. Any suspected case must be checked at hospital, and this has led to a growing frustration from community midwives who cannot carry out the jaundice checks themselves.

This is where we need your help. Rockinghorse has pledged to purchase the same monitoring equipment used on the A&E department, specifically for the community midwives to carry out post-natal check-ups with new babies at home and in clinics.

The transcutaneous bilirubin meters are non-invasive, simple to use and extremely reliable. The equipment does not need the additional readings of a separate blood screening, and this vital test takes less than a minute.

If Rockinghorse can equip community midwives to carry out bilirubin monitoring as part of their post-natal care, only those babies tested positive for jaundice would be sent to hospital for further tests and treatment.

This would bring huge benefits across the system and the care provided would be more efficient and reassuring for families. At home monitoring would ease the worry for new parents who would no longer need to make unnecessary trips to the hospital at an already stressful time in their lives.

A&E departments are already very busy. We passionately believe that anything we can do to help is very worthwhile, and by reducing the workload of emergency teams, we are freeing up the expertise of doctors and nurses to assist patients who urgently need treatment.

As a medical professional, I constantly strive for excellence and I would love for my team to have the opportunity to improve the post-natal care we offer to new mums and babies.

We would be so grateful for your support this Christmas. Please donate to our appeal with Rockinghorse and help us provide a better service for all the wonderful new families we have the pleasure of looking after throughout Sussex.

Thank you and may we wish you a very happy Christmas.”

Kelly Parker, Community Midwifery Manager, Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust

How can you get involved?

To support our appeal, please use the donate box below (also featured on the homepage of our website) to make a donation online via JustGiving — please specify Christmas Appeal when donating. You can also text ROCK00 £2, £5 or £10 to 70070 to donate via your mobile or call us on 01273 330044 to make a donation over the phone.

Thank you very much for your support and all our best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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