Blog on Baby Week Leeds – Roger Carter, NHS Digital
What a week!! It’s rare that I get the opportunity to take the time out to really envelop myself in a subject that ticks all the boxes in being something relevant to my work, important to me as a Loiner and something that I am hugely passionate about as a family guy. #BabyWeekLeeds did just that.
I’ve been a Child Friendly Leeds (CFL) Ambassador pretty much since the start. My daughter donated the much loved @LeedsTed and I took Ted on his very first Child Friendly journey to Italy 4 years ago to the day. I’ve no babies in the pipeline so why did I go to #BabyWeekLeeds? There’s no simple answer and you could tell that from those who attended the opening session at the Crowne Plaza. People went for all sorts of reasons; to learn more about the services available to women and families in Leeds, to network with like-minded health and care professionals, to get a free Baby Box or meet up in a baby and child friendly place for a coffee and cake. It didn’t matter too much about why, just being there was important!
I can’t capture every session and every stand out moment across the week but I will try and articulate why this was so important to me and some of my favourite memories. It was great to catch up with some familiar faces too from the CFL team and some of the keynote speakers such as Sheena Byrom OBE of #CatchingBabies fame. I have to shout out to Errol from @LeedsDads.
I work at NHS Digital, leading a digital programme to help transform maternity services and early years by creating an electronic record and ensuring that the right info reaches the right person at the right time – professionals and families alike. The outcomes will be a better experience, continuity of safe care, massively reduced admin burden and the start of what is likely to become a personal health record that will continue with the child for their whole life. It also supports changes that will halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths in England by 2030. This is all part of Better Births.
Turning up at the launch I brought some of my team; a project manager, a midwife and a business analyst. Everything was as normal for the events we are used to attending – round table conferencing (tick), coffee (tick), Agenda (tick). The best surprise was where ordinarily I’m sat next to another of my suited brethren, instead I was in the mix of babies being nurtured, toddlers roaming with balloon ‘trackers’ tied to them and the odd inquisitive kid staring up at me intently. The suited facade melted away and I got into my familiar Dad mode – relaxed, smiling and enjoying the fun children bring. One of my younger table guests had drawn some phenomenal scribbles – a natural born table facilitator perhaps?! It reminded me of the TV advert where all the grown-ups have kids voices. I got more sense from them than some of the meetings I get to attend!
It was game face on for the Conference events over at the University of Leeds. We know a ton about midwifery and NHS based organisations and how to meet their needs already. But there’s no way I want to neglect the broader set of community services that support women, families and children throughout pregnancy and through to early years. What is it that these services need? How can we help? Will the work we do create opportunities or have negative impacts on the delivery of care and support in communities?
One thing that struck me was the diversity and breadth of services available. Home Start, Infant Mental Health, Young Parents, Teenage Pregnancy, Family Integrated Care, Bereavement Services, Children’s Centres, Perinatal Mental Health, City of Sanctuary. Some were familiar, others less so – all dependent on the needs of the family and circumstances. Some people will sail through having kids and for others it’s a struggle. Stuff happens along the way. Some of these services are a real safety net for the child, the woman or the family. There was a palpable commitment to improving outcomes in Leeds and this was personified in Steve ‘the Penguin’ Walker – Director of Children’s Services.
Frankly, I felt it must be a real challenge to tap into all of these services as a user (you don’t know what you don’t know). On the upside many of these services will come as a result of recommendation and referral but I felt having a front door to all of these was something that at a national level we would like to help with. It fits with what we are doing and the principle of do something once and sharing for reuse. If we don’t do more of this, both social care and the NHS will sink. There’s so much that these services in Leeds can bang the drum about. Why not showcase local strengths to other parts of the country? I’m sure there are things that could be learnt from other areas too.
#BabyWeekLeeds left me feeling proud of what happens in the city and that for many remains unseen. I didn’t get to the baby sensory cafes, the soft play and all the other fun stuff that went on as part of the week but I heard they were awesome. The next step for me is to take the learning and reflect this at a national level into my work to ensure that, as we support change in maternity and early years, nobody gets left behind.
1) #BabyWeekLeeds could be regional or even national – It’s fab
2) Child Friendly is in the everyday – everyone can make a difference
3) I made some new friends and lots of follow ups to do good things.
Thank you to Lucy, Sadiya, Jane-Kaye and the team for making this event happen and for helping give babies the Best Start in life.