Maternity and Family Awards hail first-rate services

Released on: 19 July 2011

Best practice in the work of statutory maternity and family support services for prospective parents and parents of young children in Northern Ireland has been celebrated at the inaugural NCT NI Maternity & Family Awards.

The NCT (National Childbirth Trust) NI Maternity & Family Awards ceremony, sponsored by Vitabiotics Pregnacare supplements, took place at Parliament Buildings at Stormont this month (3rd December) and was attended by a number of MLAs, health professionals and service providers from across Northern Ireland.


Speaking at the event Martin Bradley, Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland, said: “The NCT Maternity and Family Awards provide an excellent opportunity to recognise good practice in this field. I offer my congratulations to all of the winners and those who were highly commended, as their work shows the professionalism and dedication of those involved in providing maternity and family services in Northern Ireland.”


NCT Chief Executive Belinda Phipps commented: “We were delighted at the standard of entries for our inaugural Northern Ireland awards. These awards have been offered to services demonstrating innovation and best practice across the areas of pregnancy and birth, babyfeeding, supporting those becoming parents and involving users in service development.


Seána Talbot of NCT in Northern Ireland added: “The fact that winners were spread geographically across Northern Ireland reassures us that a progressive approach to maternity and family support is being taken in a number of areas. The work of the winners also showcases best practice and can illustrate to other organisations how things can work well.”


The seven winners were:


The NCT NI award for services promoting the normality of birth


Winner: South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust - Maternity Unit at Lagan Valley Hospital


This multidisciplinary team takes pride in having nearly halved the caesarean section rate and now have the highest normal birth rate in the region. Historically the hospital was a small consultant led obstetric unit with high intervention and caesarean section rates.


Now it is still a consultant led unit but there is a partnership between the midwifery and medical staff and the promotion of normal birth has been evolving steadily over the last number of years. It is the only maternity unit in Northern Ireland that has fully integrated team midwifery, the introduction of team midwifery and the partnership way of working has been the catalyst for change within this unit.


The NCT NI award for birth environments designed around women’s needs


Winner: South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust – Ulster Hospital Maternity Unit ‘Home from Home’


Home from Home is a midwifery led unit developed within existing maternity services at the Ulster Hospital. A modern, spacious seven bedded midwifery led ward, where women are admitted in labour and allocated a room which is theirs for the duration of their stay through birth and postnatally. 


All rooms in the Home from Home have a sleek design and controlled lighting creating a tranquil environment where women feel secure and supported throughout their labour and birth. Mattresses and bean bags encourage women to adopt positions which are comfortable and facilitate normal birth. All equipment including emergency equipment is stored behind sliding doors, allowing quick and easy access when needed; yet creating a pleasant and non-threatening environment for women and their families.


All rooms have a birthing pool. This enables all women admitted to Home from Home the opportunity to labour and give birth in water. Women do not have to ‘book a pool’ or register their desire to labour in water in advance. This means not only are all women facilitated in their choice but any woman who had not considered this option has the opportunity to try using water as a strategy to manage her labour.


The NCT NI award for innovation in improving breastfeeding initiation and/or continuation rates


Winner: Western Health & Social Care Trust Northern Sector – Breastfeeding Service


The Breastfeeding Service was initiated in 1998 when the decision was taken to obtain UNICEF Baby Friendly accreditation. Over the past 11 years the service has grown and developed to create a great example of a programme which encompasses multidisciplinary, multi-agency working and user involvement within a Trust environment.


The geographical area had one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe with only 23% of women initiating breastfeeding in the early 1990’s. At this time both culturally and socially breastfeeding was not regarded as an acceptable method of infant feeding.


Primarily due to the sustained programme of promoting and supporting breastfeeding, by 2008 up to 63% of women initiate breastfeeding and 40% were discharged home from hospital breastfeeding. Adding to this achievement over 90% of the most vulnerable babies born at less than 33 weeks gestation now receive their mothers own breastmilk for as long as it is available.



The NCT NI award for normalising breastfeeding in the community


Joint winners:

Public Health Agency - Breastfeeding - good for baby, good for mum campaign & Breastfeeding awareness for schools– a CD ROM resource for schools


Southern Health & Social Care Trust & Orana Sure Start Newry – You Can Do it Here project

Breastfeeding - good for baby, good for mum, is a campaign developed in response to the objectives and actions outlined in the Northern Ireland Breastfeeding Strategy.

Limited awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and an absence of a breastfeeding culture in NI meant the campaign needed to address these issues by promoting the health benefits of breastfeeding and highlighting the need to be more supportive of breastfeeding mums. The campaign took a two-pronged approach and also looked at challenging social attitudes among the general public. The primary target group was women of childbearing age and the general public particularly partners and families of the primary target group were a key secondary target group.

The campaign utilised a range of communications channels including television, radio, press, washroom and bus poster advertising, information leaflets and posters. Public relations activity was also undertaken to gain profile for this issue and harness support from the Northern Ireland press and broadcast media.  A logo was developed to brand all campaign activity and the logo has since been used to brand other Northern Ireland initiatives promoting breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding awareness for schools – a CD ROM resource for schools. Breastfeeding awareness for schoolsprovides factual information about the biological and anatomical aspects of breastfeeding, which may be particularly relevant to science pupils. However, it also presents information that challenges pupils to consider their own attitudes and the perceptions of society towards breastfeeding, and this fits well within the subjects of health and social care, and home economics.

Southern Health & Social Care Trust & Orana Sure Start Newry – You Can Do it Here project

This project involved ascertaining retailer/establishments views of breastfeeding in public. Each establishment was contacted by letter, asked to complete a questionnaire, given a sample breastfeeding policy and informative details of the benefits of breastfeeding to both mum and baby. Response rates were very good.


A local guide was drawn up and assessed by the plain English board prior to public distribution. The guide was distributed throughout the community to GP surgeries, Maternity unit, breastfeeding support group, breastfeeding mothers, and all the local shops/establishments. The culture of Newry in relation to breastfeeding needed to change. The You can do it here project significantly improved public awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding.


The NCT NI award for good practice in providing support for expectant and new mothers experiencing mental health distress 


Winner: Belfast Health & Social Care Trust Mental Health Directorate - Perinatal Mood Disorder Team


The Perinatal Mood Disorder Team is a multidisciplinary team under the Mental Health Directorate of the Belfast Trust.  The overall aim of the development of the team was to provide a service to the Royal Maternity Hospital, aimed at the early identification and management of those women at risk of developing a severe mental illness associated with pregnancy or the postnatal period.


The work of the team involves: education and training of obstetric and maternity staff; provision of a service which could provide timely assessment of those women identified at risk; development of care plans for the ongoing management of those women taken on by the team, which could be shared with all relevant staff, including obstetric staff, community midwives, health visitors and social services were involved; The follow up of women by the team through pregnancy and into the postnatal period, allowing rapid and timely management if symptoms developed.


The NCT NI award for good practice in supporting parents in the early months


Joint winners:

Dungannon Sure Start – target support services for parents from BME groups

South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust - Bereavement Support Service Patient Liaison Group  ‘Forget me not’


Dungannon Sure Start

The project provides a range of services aimed specially at the additional needs of families from BME groups. Services include: a BUMPS group for ethnic minorities providing antenatal education classes in a multi-disciplinary setting supported by Polish, Lithuanian and Tetum/Portuguese bi-lingual support workers; Doula service by a trained Doula; Bi-lingual Family Support Workers: Clear pathways to inform clients to make an informed choice around: * income * housing * smoking cessation * breastfeeding. Services are co-ordinated by the midwife via a wider multi-disciplinary team.


South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust -  Bereavement Support Service Patient Liaison Group ‘Forget me not’

The Bereavement Parents Liaison Group\'The Forget me not Group was established by the Bereavement Support Midwife, Hilary Patterson, at the Ulster Hospital, having identified a lack of available professional support in Northern Ireland for parents and their families who were grieving following the loss of their child through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.


This pioneering post, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland has now been established, providing a confidential bereavement service for couples grieving the loss of their baby or child. All bereavement counselling is provided in the hospital or the home environment.  The 'Forget me not Group' was established in October 2007.


The Group aims to assess user perspective in relation to the effectiveness of the Bereavement Support Service and identify strengths and areas for improvement and implement service improvement changes as necessary.


The NCT NI award for user involvement in service development, design and evaluation


North Western Health & Social Care Trust -Mother's Voice, North Western Maternity Services Liaison Committee


Mothers’ Voice is a committed group of mothers and service providers who are working together to improve maternity services. Mothers’ Voice has been running for almost 12 years and is a well known MSLC across Northern Ireland. The main aim of Mothers’ Voice is to create positive change in local maternity services and to enhance and maintain effective communication between mothers and service providers. Mothers’ Voice is a strong advocate for local women in striving for improvements in services and choices within maternity care.


Mothers’ Voice have full committee meetings at least four times a year which includes mothers, health professionals and other stakeholders eg, midwives from all areas, managers and doctors. The group have posters and postcards on display in public places to let women know that they can contact Mothers’ Voice and encourage new users to join through contact with midwives, health visitors and Sure Starts. Mothers’ Voice is in the process of setting up a website which will help to raise its profile.