Chief Midwifery Officer Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent OBE and NHS England team visit East Lancashire Hospitals Trust to celebrate 20 years of Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative care
Blog written by: Donna Butler, Baby Friendly Specialist, East Lancashire Hospitals Trust
East Lancashire Hospitals Trust (ELHT) Baby Friendly Gold leadership team opened their doors and their arms to welcome Chief Midwifery Officer (CMO) Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent and team members from NHS England, alongside Sue Ashmore and Francesca Entwistle from Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative. The visit showcased 20 years of Baby Friendly care and demonstrated how ELHT are moving forward as a Gold accredited unit, and what that means both in theory and in practice.
The day began in a packed out room with representatives from the Family Care division, including midwives, midwifery matrons, support workers, Director and Deputy Director of nursing, business managers, neonatal nurses, neonatologists, and our Baby Friendly Guardian, Consultant Obstetrician Mrs Schram.
Angela O’Toole, Head of Midwifery (HOM), opened the visit with a heartfelt speech that revisited the start of ELHT’s Baby Friendly mission in 1997 and its journey to becoming the first-ever Gold accredited unit in the UK. Angela spoke with immense pride, warmth and kindness about staff both past and present, with her words resonating with all throughout the room.
Sarah Johnson from the ELHT Baby Friendly team delivered an engaging and impassioned presentation, taking the audience on a trip down memory lane to when breastfeeding initiation rates were just 27% compared to the much stronger 77% of today. Sarah spoke about how the standards have become the foundation for care, as well as how Gold accreditation has firmly embedded the standards under the themes of leadership, culture, progression and monitoring at ELHT.
Donna Butler, Baby Friendly specialist, spoke about working collaboratively with the local council and how the acute Trust and community recently worked together on a breastfeeding-friendly campaign to challenge the barriers mothers face when breastfeeding in public. As an example of the whole-Trust approach to progression, Donna emphasised the importance of empowering workers to become breastfeeding champions and educating Trust workers about breastfeeding after returning to work as an employee within the Trust.
Mrs Schram, the first-ever Gold guardian in the UK, captured succinctly what it means to be a ‘guardian’, discussing the importance of promoting and protecting Baby Friendly by ‘horizon scanning’ and being a ‘critical friend’ to the Baby Friendly lead, as well as being an advocate for Baby Friendly care at the senior level to ensure the executive leads in the Trust understand the importance of breastfeeding.
Sue Ashmore, Director of Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative, shared special memories of her first conversations in 1995 with Pauline Quinn, Head of Midwifery, surrounding the insurmountable obstacles to Baby Friendly care faced by the Trust, including pockets of extreme deprivation in the town, lack of staff education and a high formula feeding culture. It is a testament to past and present ELHT inspiration leaders, Sheena Byrom and Sue Henry, that the service has not only achieved and maintained the Baby Friendly standards, but that they have progressed them to become the beacon Trust they are today.
The icing was placed firmly on the cake following Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent’s speech, where she presented CMO Silver awards to our hypnobirthing midwife, substance misuse midwives, birth suit team, and antenatal and triage ward team. We were proud to celebrate our very own Sue Henry, who was the first Infant Feeding Lead in the country to receive the CMO Gold award.
The day ended with a walk through the wards, where our guests conversed with both staff and mothers, listening to their stories and reflecting on the sentiments of the earlier presentations.
The excitement and buzz of the day was incredible and as a team we felt tremendous pride in showcasing our unit and Gold standard care. Our Baby Friendly journey has strengthened our foundations and has ensured sustainability in the service. Most importantly, it has optimised experiences and outcomes for families. It was an absolute pleasure and honour to receive our guests and we truly appreciate them taking time out of their busy schedules to visit us at ELHT and show recognition for all our hard work.
It was very emotional and it was such a privilege to be part of such a great journey that you have all been on to achieve, maintain and progress Baby Friendly. It is at the core of everything you do and seems to ooze out the fabric of the whole unit’s philosophy – we are so proud of all that you have done and continue to do for babies, their mothers and families