Virtual tours of the 13 neonatal units in Kent, Surrey and Sussex, including the Special Care Baby Unit at Conquest Hospital, have launched today on World Prematurity Day, 17 November 2023.
One year in the making, the tours give parents, families and carers a step-by-step tour of the neonatal unit at each hospital. The user can self-navigate or click on the play button for an easy 3D tour experience. Stop and start the tour at any time to review a particular area of the neonatal unit in more details. Information tags have been added to explain the different areas of the neonatal unit and the equipment. In addition, the tours include an insight into the neonatal transport service including a tour of the dedicated ambulance and the transport incubator.
The virtual tours are a useful platform for families to see where their baby is being admitted to, or transferred to, alleviating some parental anxiety for families who do, or may require neonatal care. They offer an opportunity for siblings, friends and families to visualise the neonatal unit.
The tours have been co-produced with families, working with Kent, Surrey and Sussex Parent Advisory Group (PAG), local neonatal staff, Trust communication teams, Maternity and Neonatal Voices Partnership (MVPs and MNVPs), Local Maternity and Neonatal Services (LMNS) and Kent, Surrey and Sussex Operational Delivery Network (ODN).
Jennifer Lomas, Neonatal Manager for the Kent Surrey and Sussex Operational Delivery Network, said: “Having a baby that is born sick or prematurely can be an extremely overwhelming experience for families. Listening to feedback from our parents, the network recognised the need for us to produce a resource that would help familiarise parents with the neonatal unit environment. We hope these insightful 3D virtual tours co-produced with our parents will help to alleviate some of the anxiety that parents have described around not knowing what to expect when their baby is admitted to a Neonatal Unit”.
Hannah Stone has been involved with the design of the tours as part of the parent voice group; her daughter was born prematurely at Pembury Hospital. She said: “While waiting for a c-section, I was suddenly aware the first time I would meet my daughter would be in the intensive care unit.
“Having a virtual tour of the unit would have been amazing. It would have given me time to understand how I was going to meet my daughter and what the room would look like. It would have helped me manage my expectations.”
Louise Flanagan was also involved in the patient advisory group for the virtual tours. She said: “My son was two days old when he was transferred to a neonatal unit, and I had no idea what to expect.
“It would have made a huge difference to be able to watch a video of the unit we were going to. It would have resolved some of my anxiety, made me feel like I had a bit more control in what felt like a very out of control situation.
“It’s been so rewarding to be involved in creating these videos. I know how hard the process is and these videos are important, and I hope will benefit other families.”
Manju Thomas is the Matron in the Special Care Baby Unit, who said: “Experiencing a premature birth or having a sick baby that requires additional care can be extremely stressful on families. Having a resource like this can provide a small amount of relief, so that they can familiarise themselves with the unit and know what to expect while there.”
You can see the video tour of the Conquest Special Care Baby Unit on our website here; the tour is also available, alongside the tours of other units across the South East, on the Neonatal Networks South East website.