Midwife receives national NHS Safeguarding Star Award

A midwife at Wirral University Teaching Hospital has received a national award for outstanding leadership in safeguarding.

Michelle Beales-Shaw, Named Midwife for Safeguarding at Wirral University Teaching Hospital (WUTH), has been awarded the NHS Safeguarding Star Award.

This is for her work supporting the national initiative to create special Maternity HOPE boxes for women who are at risk of being separated from their baby at birth, due to a court decision. She was instrumental in the implementation of the Maternity HOPE (Hold On Pain Eases) Box pilot at WUTH which aims to minimise the trauma parents experience during separation.

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

Michelle linked in with the NHS Named Midwife Network in 2020 to share a concept of ‘Beth’s Always and Forever Boxes’ which she had developed at WUTH after her own personal experience had given her inspiration to help others.

In 2018, Michelle suddenly lost her own 22-year-old daughter, Bethany. She found great comfort in Bethany’s belongings and the memory box items that she had collected since her daughter was born.

Michelle said, “Nothing had ever prepared me as a parent to consider the possibility of life without my girl. Being able to go through Beth’s belongings over the days, weeks and months following our loss provided comfort as I was able to hold on to my precious daughter for just a little bit longer because of these special items and memories.”

She felt that as a professional, she could draw on her experience to help parents involved in care proceedings.

Michelle added, “The Always and Forever Boxes were designed to support parents in preparing for separation by creating meaningful memories of time spent with their baby. They also create opportunities for professionals to start conversations with mothers about the emotional loss they are likely to feel once their baby has been taken to a placement without them, and to think about how they can protect themselves and safeguard their own wellbeing during this time.”

Michelle highlighted that the box is not just a tool for birth and the immediate removal of the baby from the mother’s care but also one that parents and care providers can use during family time visits.

Tracy Fennell, Chief Nurse at Wirral University Teaching Hospital, said, “I am so proud of Michelle for her work together with other midwives and mothers in the creation of these Maternity HOPE Boxes with the national NHS Named Midwife Network. It demonstrates her professionalism and enormous emotional empathy for others going through a painful separation. I really believe the Maternity HOPE Boxes have huge potential to grow and I am confident the concept will help many mothers and parents to cope with such distressing circumstances in the future.”

The Maternity HOPE Boxes pilot was introduced on the back of research led by Lancaster University as part of the Nuffield Family Justice Observatory Born into Care series, which has demonstrated that women who experience separation from their babies at birth are at acute risk of a mental health crisis, including self-harm and attempted suicide during the postnatal period. Women highlighted how even small changes that promote sensitive interactions and improve their sense of control and choice, may have helped to relieve the trauma.

Image: (L-R) Michelle Beales-Shaw, Named Midwife for Safeguarding and Tracy Fennell, Chief Nurse

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