Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice continues to pioneer by employing Europe’s first hospice midwife

Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield has employed the first midwife ever to work in a hospice anywhere in Europe, continuing its ongoing commitment to developing new services in support of families whose pregnancies, babies and children are affected by life-shortening conditions.

Midwife Sarah Balmforth joined Forget Me Not in June 2017, bringing Russell House’s perinatal team up to seven. Sarah was previously labour ward co-ordinator for nine years at Halifax Royal Infirmary, and prior to that she was a midwife for five years at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.

Besides Sarah, the team has a neonatal nurse specialist, three neonatal staff nurses and two neonatal care support assistants, with the support of doctors when required.

Emma Bleasdale, neonatal nurse specialist at the hospice, commented:

“Forget Me Not is so grateful to all of the amazing members of the public who have made this unique appointment – and our entire perinatal service – possible.

“They may never see for themselves how the money they’ve donated or fundraised is spent, but we’d like them to know that they’ve made possible something which is unparalleled in Europe, and something which is of massive importance to families at a time of real need.

“I’m sure that what we’re pioneering here will spread to other hospices around the UK, which means that the people of Huddersfield are quite literally changing the way children’s hospices operate right across the country.”

Midwife Sarah says she is very conscious that her appointment is a first for the UK. She commented:

“We’re determined to set a very high standard. We’ll be developing and defining this new midwifery role, ensuring that we continue to work closely with families and healthcare professionals.

“Our goal is to provide all the support families need before, during and after the birth of a child who is either known during pregnancy to have a life-shortening condition, or where unexpected difficulties arise around the time of the birth.

“As part of this, we hope to bring joy into every situation, no matter how difficult. Every baby is precious, every pregnancy unique, and we’re here to help families celebrate that – even in the midst of sadness.”

Sarah works in close partnership with community midwives, and already has an excellent network of contacts in the area. She continued:

“We work with families right from the time when a potential problem is diagnosed, which is often at the 20-week scan, but could be at any point up to the delivery – even when no problems have previously been detected.

“We can support the family up to the birth, during delivery and afterwards. That can mean helping the family to leave hospital sooner and bringing them here to Russell House for a while. We can help establish breastfeeding, build parents’ confidence when looking after a baby with a particular condition, and explain things to siblings.”

Emma Bleasdale added:

“Many families need the extra assistance we provide. That can mean intensive specialist support in coming to terms with their situation during pregnancy or just after the birth, and in understanding what might lie ahead. It also means continuity of contact – families may need support for a protracted period of time, and they’d rather continue to see the same friendly face.

Forget Me Not has recently invested heavily in perinatal support. Besides employing a unique perinatal team, Russell House offers accommodation for babies and a hotel-like suite for families to stay overnight. Furthermore, the Snowflake Suite is available to families whenever a baby has died, offering a safe, private and unhurried place to say goodbyes and to grieve.