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vCreate - Turning Simpsons newborns into video stars

Virtually connecting parents and babies during the pandemic

Families with poorly newborns or babies born prematurely at the Simpsons Neonatal Unit in Edinburgh have been able to watch their babies' progress, even if they are unable to be at their side, following the introduction of an innovative video diary project funded by the charity Simpsons Special Care Babies.

The Simpson Neonatal Unit introduced vCreate in April 2020, which, as it happens, coincided with restricted parental and family visiting due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Just one year on, we have introduced 267 families to vCreate, with 2,454 videos and 1,080 photos having been sent to parents and extended families from the Unit.

The vCreate app, allows nursing staff to record videos of babies in their care which are then sent securely to parents' smartphones and tablets to create a video diary. The impact of the pandemic has meant this invaluable resource has been more welcomed by parents and families than we could have ever imagined.

Currently using six dedicated iPads, four of which were supplied by Simpsons Special Care Babies, we have seen a huge enthusiasm for vCreate, which has only accelerated due to the world we have been living in since March last year. The Unit's ambition is that the service becomes even more embedded into everyday practice and the response from both staff and, importantly, parents has been overwhelmingly positive.

vCreate is now being used in 140 neonatal units across the country and we are delighted to hear of the difference it has made already to families with babies in The Simpson Neonatal Unit. Many of our Trustees, myself included, have experienced the journey of a premature child. It is not possible to stay with our babies 24/7, and this has been even more the case during the Pandemic.

We know first hand, therefore, how being able to keep regularly in touch with a baby’s progress and feeling involved in their care provides reassurance and minimises separation anxiety during an exceedingly difficult time, made even more difficult by visiting restrictions over the past year.

For parents of premature and poorly babies, keeping constantly in touch with their little one's progress and feeling involved in their care provides reassurance and minimises separation anxiety during an exceedingly difficult time, made even more difficult by visiting restrictions over the past year.

Having your baby born prematurely is extremely worrying but imagine what it is like in the middle of the pandemic. Parents have only been able to visit their baby in hospital one at a time and grandparents or siblings have not been able to visit at all. With the introduction of vCreate, nurses have been able to send videos and photos home so parents and extended families can see how things are going on at the ward.

A recent snapshot audit at The Simpson Neonatal Unit showed that 90% of babies in the NICU had vCreate accounts, with some babies having starred in as many as 80 videos from their neonatal stay. At discharge, parents can download all videos and photos – a lovely way to look back and see how far their little ones have developed and grown.

We have learnt an awful lot from the past year. It has been hugely challenging for us, as a charity supporting parents and families in such testing times. Moving on, we hope that it soon won’t be necessary to restrict access for parents as much as we have done, which is reassuring for families; but what we have learnt from the pandemic and how technology can support the Unit will be invaluable for years to come.

In the meantime, we are immensely grateful for the support Simpsons Special Care Babies has continued to receive throughout the Pandemic, which has allowed us to provide equipment such as vCreate.

Niall McLean is Chair at Simpsons Special Care Babies.

Quote from Dr Vix Monnelly, Consultant Neonatologist at The Simpson Neonatal Unit:

“The introduction of vCreate in our neonatal unit has been instrumental in family centred care and none of us can envisage ever going back to life without vCreate. Personally, I love vCreate because it brings a little bit of joy to our families on a daily basis and allows them to experience and witness their baby’s precious moments, even when they cannot physically be there. We must not underestimate the impact that these videos have for parents and for siblings and the wider family. We are constantly thinking about innovative ways we can use this technology more to benefit our babies and further promote family-centred care.”

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