The results of the Neonatal Survey 2014 have shown that while parents are having high quality experiences for many aspects of neonatal care, communication is varied. In fact, with less than half (45%) of respondents able to speak to a doctor as much as they wanted to, there is significant room to improve communication between clinicians and parents, as well as information provision in general.
Created in 2010 and revised in 2014 by Picker, in collaboration with Bliss (the charity “for babies born too soon, too small, too sick”), the survey exists to support the understanding of the experiences of parents whose babies received care in neonatal units. The survey was offered to all NHS Trusts in England in 2014, to facilitate feedback from parents about their experiences, and was supported by Bliss with partial funding from NHS England.
The survey involved 88 hospital neonatal units from 72 NHS trusts in England (including special care baby units, local neonatal units and neonatal intensive care units), in addition to the neonatal services at Jersey General Hospital. Participating units fell into 13 different neonatal networks across England, and responses were received from 6000 parents – a response rate of 38%.
Despite some concerns with doctor-parent communication, this does not seem to have affected faith in either the care available, or teams’ delivering it in general. The survey reveals a high level of parent trust and confidence in the care teams caring for their babies, with 87% of respondents stating that they “always or nearly always” had confidence and trust in the staff caring for their baby. Not only that, but 79% of parents stated that they were both “always” able to talk to staff if they had worries and concerns, and “always” received information about their baby’s treatment in a way they could understand.
Other refreshingly positive findings included praise for an open approach to parental ward visits, with 92% of parents feeling that they could visit their baby as much as they wanted. Four fifths of parents also stated that staff “helped them feel confident in caring for their child.” Which was also evidenced by the proportion of parents who felt they fully received the support they needed from staff for their choice of feeding method. A similar level of feeding support for those that could and wanted to a) express milk, b) breastfeed and c) opt for baby formula milk, shows that staff are taking a balanced approach to feeding choices, taking into account parents personal preferences.
In terms of areas for improvement, aside from the already referenced communication issues, information provision was found to be lacking – specifically about parental support groups such as Bliss, with 30% of parents responding that they did not receive any information. A fifth of parents also said they “often” got conflicting information about their baby’s condition and care.
On the impact this research can have in improving neonatal services, Amy Tallett, Associate Director of Health Experiences at Picker observed: “Assessing parents’ experiences of neonatal services is crucial for an understanding of care quality and how it can be improved. By ensuring that organisations carry out the survey in a consistent and systematic way, it is possible to build a national picture of parents’ experiences of neonatal care, compare organisational performance, monitor change over time and drive local level improvements.”
Discussing what the survey findings reveal about the reality of parents’ neonatal care experiences, Bliss Chief Executive, Caroline Davey said: “Involving parents in service improvement is vital for neonatal units, and this survey provides a valuable opportunity for parents to feed back on their experiences while their baby was in hospital. While there is much to celebrate, the survey also highlights areas where further improvement is needed, including the need to provide better information to parents and to involve parents fully in their baby’s care. Bliss is committed to working with units to improve services, including through the audit process of our Bliss Baby Charter toolkit, as well as doing more to reach families directly with information and support.”
Notes for editors
• For further information read the full Parents’ experiences of neonatal care: Findings from Neonatal Survey 2014 report
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