The UCLH neonatal unit practises a model of developmental care for neonates called NIDCAP (The Newborn Individualised Developmental Care and Assessment Programme) which is supported by the UCLH Charity Neonatal Care Fund.
NIDCAP is about working collaboratively with the baby and acknowledging that parents are the most important caregivers in their baby’s lives. When babies are born prematurely, they are unprepared for the experiences of the ward and the harsh sounds and light, discomfort, painful procedures and 2D surfaces which make a sharp contrast to the warm envelopment of the womb.
These intense stimuli at a time of rapid brain growth may compromise normal development and affect the baby’s later ability to interact, organise movement or make sense of the world. The developmental approach avoids over stimulation or stress by reading behavioural cues to shape subsequent intervention and interaction. Isolation can also impact brain development so the NIDCAP programme supports an intimate connection between the parent and infant. One expression of this is Kangaroo Mother Care.
To practice NIDCAP and carry out the detailed observations which inform care and therefore support the baby’s individual neuro-development, nurses, therapists and doctors have to undertake extensive training over a minimum period of two years. To put a neonatal professional through the course costs £10-12K and the UCLH Charity Fund helps to pay for this aswell as funding a backfilling of staff.
In addition, the fund is also used to buy additiional pieces of equipment or materials ranging from expensive pieces of medical equipment to wool for the volunteers who knit and crotchet the cot blankets.
Research demonstrates that NIDCAP can improve brain development, functional competence, health, and quality of life. It also has short term positive outcomes such as shorter overall hospital stay (including time in intensive care), better weight gain and improved behavioural outcomes. This is a whole new standard of neonatal care which enhances development to positively influence the infant’s potential.