Norwich North MP joins frontline nurses

Norwich North MP Dr Ian Gibson will be going 'on shift' with a neonatal nursing team this week (mid-day – 17th December) to learn first hand about the challenges of winter care for newborns.

He’s supporting a national initiative by the Neonatal Nurses Association (NNA) to raise awareness of the potential problems facing babies – particularly those born prematurely. 

The initiative aims to promote good health in newborns by advising parents of simple, common-sense steps they can take in the home to help reduce the risks of illness. The MP also hopes to bring to light the complexities of caring for a sick baby and preparing them for transition to home care.

“Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital’s neonatal unit looks after the youngest and most vulnerable people in my constituency. I am looking forward to experiencing a shift with the dedicated team on the Ward and I hope to learn more about neonatal care and the issues that affect the day-to-day care of newborns.” said Dr Gibson. T

he MP’s visit to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital comes at a time when neonatal teams around the country are experiencing their busiest time of the year (October – March) when newborns are especially prone to infections, such as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

Premature babies are particularly vulnerable to the virus, which attacks the immune system leaving the baby unguarded against the conditions like influenza and bronchiolitis.

RSV is acknowledged as a major cause of winter admissions in neonatal units and has been linked to chronic wheezing and asthma in later childhood. The NNA, which is committed to promoting good long term health for babies who leave intensive care, is advising parents that simple steps can reduce the risk of respiratory infections in the winter months.

These include:

  • Frequent hand washing for all those who handle the baby
  • Not smoking near the baby
  • Prompt disposal of used tissues
  • Where possible, keeping siblings with cold symptoms away from the infant

Up to 5,000 babies are born at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital each year. On average 600 of them, many premature, are admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and occupy one of the hospital's 22 neonatal cots.

“No parent wants to see their child sick or hospitalised and I want to make parents in my constituency aware that there are preventative measures they can take to reduce the risk of their child picking up an infection like RSV. Many parents just do not realise the considerable threat these illnesses pose, particularly to those infants born prematurely.

The vital work that the Neonatal Nurses Association is doing in Norwich is timely as it coincides with what is known as the ‘RSV season’ – a time when parents need to be particularly careful,” said Dr Gibson.

Jenny Mynett, Ward Manager at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital neonatal intensive care unit said, “We are delighted to welcome Dr Gibson into our hospital. It gives us a great opportunity to discuss neonatal issues with him and he will also be able to see the first-rate level of care that each and every baby on our ward receives.”

“We expect a dramatic increase in admissions of infants with respiratory illnesses in the coming months, so we are grateful for this attempt to heighten public awareness of the simple preventive measures that keep a baby healthy and at home.”

NNA Chairperson Joanne Smith said she too was looking forward to seeing Dr Gibson take on the task. “Nursing is a highly focused profession which requires massive attention to detail and high levels of patience. This is particularly true when dealing with fragile life. Our aim in this exercise is not only to show how rewarding watching babies grow healthily can be, but to bring to the public’s attention the importance of increased care levels in the winter months and illustrate to everyone whose life is touched by a new baby that neonatal care is crucial.”

The NNA, which is pushing for official care guidelines for neonates to be established, held its annual conference recently (29-30 September, East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham) where the Association discussed the future of the profession.

“Although the National Service Framework for Children has just been published, the challenge is to ensure the Department of Health has provided a framework for those guidelines. As an Association we view it as critical those guidelines are established,” said Joanne.

Notes to Editors: 

  • Virtually every infant will contract the RSV virus in the first two years of life. The risk to premature infants can be significant due to under-developed airways, leaving them prone to respiratory illness
  • Neonates are defined as infants from 0 to 28 days old. Premature babies (those born at less than 37 weeks gestation) are particularly at risk from unnecessary or inappropriate transfers from unit to unit due to their weakened state
  • Many have underdeveloped respiratory and immune systems which require ventilation of the lungs. ·

Dr Ian Gibson MP and Jenny Mynett, Ward Manager, will be available for interview on Friday (from mid-day)

Friday 10th of December 2004 02:00:00 PM