Published on: 21 October 2022

Two midwives who have been helping create connection boxes for women who are at risk of being separated from their baby at birth, have been recognised for their work.

Louise Slater, a midwife working in drug services and Natalie Woodruff, a Perinatal Mental Health Midwife at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) were awarded a National Safeguarding Star for Outstanding Practice from NHS England last week.

They have been instrumental in implementing HOPE boxes at ELHT, which aim to minimise the trauma parents experience when they are separated from their baby at birth due to a court decision.

The boxes help families capture important memories prior to separation and promote ongoing connection between them and their baby post-separation whilst the court proceedings consider longer term plans for the child.

Louise and Natalie were presented with their award for outstanding practice by Catherine Randall, Associate Director of Safeguarding for NHS England.

Upon receiving the award, Natalie said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have our work acknowledged at a national level. Louise and I are passionate about using these boxes as a tool to help parents grieve their immediate loss and acknowledge their parent identity and it provides them with some control that many of these parents perceive as traumatic and a dehumanising experience.

“We have developed a steering group with Midwives in other Trusts to promote these boxes and we are aiming for them to be standard in all Trusts for women at risk of separation at birth.”

Research published in 2018 undertaken by The Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University has shown that in England there are more than 2500 newborns subject to care proceedings in England each year and this initiative will now help acknowledge that it is not only women who have miscarried that experience a birth trauma, but also women whose babies are taken away from them, too.

The boxes are being piloted in a number of NHS Trusts between Summer 2022 and 2023 as part of the ’Giving HOPE’ impact project being led by The Centre of Child and Family Justice at Lancaster University through money received from the Economic and Social Research Council and the NHS National Maternity Safeguarding Network.

Claire Mason, Research Fellow at the Centre for Child and Family Justice Research at Lancaster University, said: “The women with lived experience (HOPE mums) and the midwives involved in the co-production of the HOPE boxes intervention have been truly dedicated. We feel very privileged to have led this work and are excited about the implementation phase.”

“We hope that this intervention will help improve practice surrounding separation at birth and that when separation is necessary, that the HOPE boxes help ensure that it is done with humanity and compassion and causes minimal trauma to mothers and their babies.”

Catherine Randall added: “It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to honour Louise and Natalie with a National Safeguarding Star in London at the HOPE box celebration. NHS Safeguarding which sits as part of the Nursing and Midwifery directorate of NHS England awards outstanding safeguarding practice for those colleagues that go above and beyond.”

“Louise and Natalie both demonstrated compassion, kindness, care and safeguarding excellence for women at their most vulnerable and these HOPE boxes will support women and families for the future.”

  • slide
  • slide
  • slide