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New video link at Addenbrooke’s allows parents who are unable to visit, to see and talk to their babies in hospital

A new video contact system giving parents the ability to have precious virtual contact with their babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was launched earlier than planned due to coronavirus.

The initiative had been in planning for a while to help parents who couldn’t visit their critically ill babies due to health or social circumstances, for example, families who lived further from the hospital or who had other children at home to look after. Before the virus hit, families could stay with their babies around the clock. Without the new system in place, parents would only have been able to see their babies for one hour each day.

With kind donations from Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) donors and the support of the hospital’s IT company, Novosco, Addenbrooke’s was able to accelerate the project and roll out the video system during the first lockdown, allowing parents to be able to maintain video contact with their babies whenever they needed while they were apart.

Mary King, NICU matron at Addenbrooke’s said, “The introduction of the video system has given parents the opportunity to see their baby so they can feel closer to them even when they are unable to visit. Parents have been able to speak to the team looking after their baby for support, reassurance and updates. The video system has also allowed mothers who are unwell and still at their local hospital to see their babies and speak with the NICU team. It has also been used by the psychology team to provide sessions with parents. We are very grateful to ACT and Novosco for all of their support.”

Louise and Dave are the parents of 10-month-old Noah who was born extremely prematurely in November 2019. Louise said: “During the COVID outbreak we had already been in the NICU with Noah for 4 months and we were just getting to the ‘going home’ stage. When coronavirus hit, they had to close the unit to all visitors including parents. We couldn’t go and see Noah and were heartbroken. That was one of the hardest days, having to accept that. It was devastating not being able to see him.”

“It was then that the team explained the possibility of the new video link. They explained that they would do everything they could to enable us to see Noah and that it was important that he could hear our voice and that we could see him. So, we went home and while there, suddenly my phone rang, and a video call popped up. It was Noah! The team had connected the video link so that we could see Noah in the unit from home.”

“We were one of the first families to try out the link. We got a chance to see Noah and talk to him. I can’t describe how much that meant, being able to see him on the screen. It really reassured us that he was doing well and that he could stay connected to us. The idea of not being able to see our son for so long after everything that had happened was unimaginable, so we can’t thank the NICU team enough for doing everything in their power to facilitate that connection.”

Ellen Dickson, Client Director at Novosco, said: “Novosco are proud to be partners with Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) and ACT, and during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was our genuine pleasure to be able to rapidly facilitate the roll out of this technology solution to ensure that families of those children in the NICU could maintain visual contact. Drawing on our expertise to put the technology in place just made sense when the challenges of visiting babies emerged during lockdown, and to play even a small part of alleviating those worries and concerns for families was amazing.”

To mark World Prematurity Day on 17 November, ACT held a virtual seminar with teams from NICU and ANTS at the Rosie Hospital discussing the impact supporter donations are having on these incredible hospital departments, enabling improved care, and providing vital support to families during COVID-19. You can view the seminar on our YouTube channel.

The hospital continues to welcome donations to ensure that the NICU at Addenbrooke’s continues to provide the best care for tiny patients. To donate to the NICU please visit our website.