- Run by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in partnership with Maternity Voices Partnership, Qulturum, Sweden and NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North West London.
- Aimed to design a person-centred model of care in postnatal services to better meet the needs of women and their families, and support staff.
- Created a bespoke ‘living library’ peer support model for postnatal care and adapted it for remote use by parents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Underfunding, fragmentation of care and other service pressures mean that postnatal care in the NHS is not delivering an experience that effectively meets the needs of women and their families.
NHS postnatal wards have traditionally provided a ‘medical model’ of care that doesn’t meet women’s non-physical needs. A poor postnatal experience can lead to postnatal depression and stress, and affect bonding, breastfeeding and child development. The associated poor working environment can also contribute to low staff morale and motivation.
This project led by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital set out to transform the delivery of postnatal care by developing a person-centred peer support programme based on a Swedish approach. This included a postnatal ‘Living library’ where people with similar lived experience are lent as ‘books’ to ‘readers’ to help support their mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing when going through similar experiences.
In the ‘discovery’ phase, interviews, focus groups, workshops and observations with family and staff members were used to co-design two living libraries for parents experiencing unexpected birth challenges and professionals (including students) delivering postnatal NHS care.
Although originally planned to launch in a single maternity unit, the programme was quickly adapted in response to COVID-19 to enable support to be offered remotely, greatly extending potential reach.
Because NHS staff had access to enhanced wellbeing initiatives during the pandemic, focus shifted towards developing a digital ‘Beyond Birth Living Library’ giving parents access to range of written, audio and video peer support options, including meeting another parent virtually.
The next stage will involve project delivery and evaluation across North West London, and ensuring sustainability by creating a peer support toolkit to help other local maternity systems enhance their community postnatal resources.