Dr Katie Gallagher is trying to improve the experience of families of very premature babies (born before 25 weeks) and also the outcomes of babies, by understanding the different approaches of medical staff with the aim of developing training to ensure delivery of consistent support and care.
Why this research is vital
Extreme preterm birth, when a baby is born at less than 25 weeks into pregnancy, affects over 1300 babies in the UK each year. It is vitally important that all clinical teams support the parents and give them the best, consistent information to help them prepare for what lies ahead.
Treating babies born this early can be extremely complex and, across the country, differences in the approaches of medical staff may be affecting decision making around their care.
Better understanding of medical teams’ approaches to preterm babies and their families could help to ensure families receive the support and clear information they need to make decisions, and babies receive consistent care, no matter where they are born.
When it comes to supporting these families, communication is key. Not only communication to parents, but also communication between all the medical staff that interact with them – from the doctors and midwives caring for the mother during labour, to the staff that look after the baby and family after birth. If conflicting messages are given it can be a very distressing at what is already an incredibly difficult time.
Dr Katie Gallagher, at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has already completed work trying to understand if differing opinions, attitudes and interpretations of evidence among medical staff that care for babies after birth (like neonatologists) can affect the experience for families, and the outcome for babies.
Now, along with her team, she wants to take the same approach with the team that look after mums during birth. They hope that by understanding the attitudes of all the medical teams involved, from the onset of labour to caring for infants, they will be able to design training programmes and robust information. This will help ensure all families receive consistent information and that all babies receive the best care possible.
Impact of this project
Having a baby born very prematurely is distressing for everyone involved. This project could help by ensuring that staff feel supported to work together to deliver consistent information and support to the family, including involving parents in decision making. This could help improve the experience of staff, but most importantly, that of families and ultimately the care of babies who are born too early across the UK.
This project is jointly funded by Sparks and charity partner Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity through their national research funding call.