Neonatal Question Time with Dr Neil Patel and the Helping us Group Group at RHC NNU

15 September 2017

Neonatal Question Time with Dr Neil Patel and the Helping us Group Group at RHC NNU

Neil is a neonatologist at the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow. He leads the Helping Us Grow Group (HUGG), a unique collaboration of families and staff developing and implementing family integrated care in the neonatal unit.

Neil is a big proponent of family integrated care, an approach that encourages involving the families of NICU patients in the care of their babies. We had the pleasure of speaking with him recently on the value of family integrated care.

What would you say are best practices for family integrated care?

Education and training are key components. We hold daily Family Awareness Sessions where parents can learn the skills they need to care for their baby, as well as meeting and supporting each other. Staff education is also essential, so they can feel confident to mentor parents.

What are the biggest challenges of implementing family integrated care?

Engaging staff can be one of the biggest challenges. FIC involves a change in their established role from direct caregiver to become mentor, teacher and supporter to parents. In the busy neonatal unit, it can be difficult to find the energy and time to make changes and take on new approaches. Staff may also have very reasonable concerns about parents taking in elements of care. We have found that by sharing feedback from families, listening to staff concerns, and empowering them to lead the implementation of FIC has enabled us to meet these challenges.

How did you ensure staff and parents were involved in the transition to family integrated care?

We have tried hard to listen to the experiences, concerns and ideas of staff and families. This has allowed us to develop a model of FIC unique to our unit, engaged families and staff to work together, and given them ownership over the process, and control over the timing of changes. We use our monthly HUGG meetings, together with daily education sessions and regular parent and staff survey to hear everyone’s views.

What are your future plans for family integrated care at RHC NNU?

Progress so far has exceeded all of our expectations, but there is lots more to do! The culture and “feel” of our big and busy Unit has changed, families and staff feel much more connected and work together. However, we now want to support every family to care for their baby, to enable all staff to feel confident in FIC, and to measure the impact of our programme for our patients, their families, and staff.

To submit a question to Neil and the HUGG team, mail your question to