When your baby is born prematurely, or very poorly, you enter a new world.

A world sat by the cotside, waiting - with your hopes and fears. Waiting for your little one to gain enough strength for you to be able to take them home.

New parents with babies needing this extra support want to be there every minute of the day – but the realities of having other children and responsibilities means this isn’t always possible.

A pioneering project at the John Radcliffe Hospital is now helping these parents to see their babies' progress, even when they are unable to be at their cotside.

Oxford Hospitals Charity, working with SSNAP (Support for Sick Newborn and their Parents) has funded the new vCreate app, which was launched this week. The systems allows nursing staff to record videos of babies in their care.

Videos are sent securely to parents’ smartphones and tablets and, over time, a video diary builds up that can be downloaded and kept forever once the baby has been discharged.

Dr Jacinta Cordwell, Senior Clinical Psychologist at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Being separated from your baby can be incredibly difficult for any parent, especially when your baby is sick or premature.

‘As a team we were keen to think of ways that we could bring families and their babies closer together.

‘We hope that implementing this video messaging system will provide parents and families with some comfort and ongoing connection to their baby when they are otherwise not able to be by their cotside.’

The six iPads were funded by Oxford Hospitals Charity  and the running costs of the software are being funded by SSNAP.

Dr Cordwell was motivated to introduce the system based on her own experiences of different systems available to nurseries and preschools.

One of the patients to pilot the new technology ahead of today’s launch was Sara Deans from Banbury.

Her son, 14-week-old Frazer, weighed 1Ib 8oz (835g) after being born at 24 weeks, and has been battling complicated medical issues at the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital since April.

Sara, who jumped at the chance to pilot the free app, said: ‘As soon as I was told about the app I said it was a brilliant idea.

‘It’s so nice that when I leave the unit, instead of ringing, I can physically see him.

‘The nurses are great. I went to the dentist recently and one of them had written a note saying ‘mummy be brave at the dentist today, love Frazer’. It was so cute.

‘vCreate has been so beneficial and is so appreciated. I 100 percent recommend it.’

Sarah Vaccari, from Oxford Hospitals Charity, said: ‘At Oxford Hospitals Charity we know that sometimes the little things can make a very big difference.

‘For parents of premature and poorly babies, keeping constantly in touch their little one’s progress and feeling involved in their care provides reassurance and minimises separation anxiety during a very difficult time.

‘It also allows wider family members such as siblings and grandparents to be more involved. So we are delighted that we have collaborated with Newborn Care team and SSNAP to support this very special project.’

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