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Parents of premature and sick babies being cared for on the Neonatal Unit at Tunbridge Wells Hospital can see their baby via video when they’re unable to be with their child.

The secure video messaging application vCreate, which has been rolled out on the Neonatal Unit permanently following a successful three month pilot, is now more important than ever for bringing babies and parents together.

The technology, which allows clinical teams to send video updates to parents when they’re not able to be at the hospital, was made possible thanks to the Morrisons Foundation. The Foundation, part of the national supermarket chain, donated £9,600 to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust Charitable Fund, which will fund the service for two years.

vCreate aims to minimise separation anxiety and bring comfort to worried parents who haven’t been able to take their baby home with them as planned. Parents can login to the vCreate App at any time to see how their child is progressing and can leave notes and feedback for the nursing team. Once their baby has been discharged from hospital, parents are able to download the videos and keep them forever.

John Allen and partner Allison Woods used the app when they couldn’t physically be with their son Rafferty whilst he was being cared for on the Neonatal Unit at Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

Rafferty, who was born at 26 weeks weighing just 900 grams, spent a total of 102 days in three different hospitals – 65 of which were spent on the neonatal unit at Tunbridge Wells Hospital – following his birth on 19 December 2019. He was eventually discharged from the unit on 30 March 2020 – six days after his original due date.

Dad of two John, from Kings Hill, said: “The video messaging service gave us a boost especially after all we had been through with Rafferty. After leaving the hospital at night, sometimes very late, we would receive our photos and videos early in the morning which was great. To see that Rafferty was alright before we returned to hospital was very comforting.”

Julia Moat, Neonatal Specialist Matron, said: “Often parents have other children to care for and work commitments, so as much as they would like to be at their baby’s cotside 24 hours a day, that isn’t always possible.

“Thanks to this new service, our nurses can help reassure parents about their baby by directly sending video updates of their child from the neonatal unit to their smartphones. Vcreate can also help families to become more involved in the care of their child, because they can see and ask questions.”

Sharon Sidebottom, Community Champion for the Maidstone Morrisons store, said: “The Morrisons Foundation is delighted to provide this grant which will make a positive difference to the Neonatal Unit’s work at Tunbridge Wells Hospital.

“With around 1 in 7 babies born in the UK admitted to a neonatal unit each year, this new video messaging service will support and reassure many local families. The Morrisons Foundation is very proud to provide support to such vital work in our community.”

Ben Moore, Founder of vCreate, said: “We are very grateful to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust Charitable Fund for choosing vCreate and to the Morrisons Foundation for funding it.

“We hope hundreds of families will be comforted by the video updates they receive through the app.”

Donations towards the vCreate service can be made via JustGiving