Psychological Support for Families on the Hull Neonatal Unit

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY-1399-2023
  • Departments: Neonates
  • Last Updated: 30 September 2023


Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit can be a highly stressful time and may be very different to how you imagined things would be.  It can be a difficult and confusing time, whether this is your first experience of being parents or whether you have other children to care for.  We feel it is important that parents of babies on the neonatal unit are offered support and the opportunity to discuss their experience and access appropriate psychological support if required.

This leaflet describes the psychological support on offer by the clinical psychologist to you whilst your baby is staying on the neonatal unit and how to access this support. The clinical psychologist can provide support for mothers and partners and you can be seen together or separately.

How can psychology help?

We recognise that when a baby is born early or requires additional health care this can be very difficult.  Experiencing something distressing and traumatic such as this can lead to unfamiliar feelings, thoughts and reactions that fluctuate or feel more extreme or different to normal.

There is no right or wrong way to feel or react and everyone’s experience is unique to them.    Some parents do not require psychological support whilst on the unit and feel they are managing okay.  However, others may find it helpful to meet with a clinical psychologist for extra support or advice. This means that the support we offer will vary from parent to parent.

What does psychological support involve?

Clinical psychologists can help people understand their experiences and manage in the best way they can. We do not prescribe medication, but instead use ‘talking therapies’ to help with such things as:

  • Making sense of how you have been feeling.
  • Finding ways to deal with difficult feelings, such as anxiety, sadness, anger, guilt and loss.
  • Living with uncertainty and coming to terms with change.
  • Making use of your own strengths and skills and finding ways to solve problems.
  • Learning techniques that may help you to cope with uncertainty and worry, such as relaxation.

The clinical psychologist can meet with you either face-to-face whilst you are on the unit or via the telephone or video, whichever you would prefer.  You can be seen cot-side or in a private space and you can have your partner or other family members present if this is helpful.  Everyone’s situation is different and assessed individually, and so this time will be dedicated to allow you the opportunity to discuss any concerns, psychological and emotional difficulties you have had or are currently experiencing.

If it is agreed that psychological support would be useful to you, the clinical psychologist can continue to support you during your baby’s stay on the unit.  If it is felt that there is a more suitable service to meet your needs, the psychologist will discuss this with you and support you to access services as required.

How will the session be documented and who will be involved?

The clinical psychologist is part of the multi-disciplinary team supporting you and your baby. This means that some information may be shared with the staff involved in your baby’s care if this was felt to be useful and appropriate.  If there was any information that you did not want shared with the wider team then the psychologist would try to make sure that it is kept private and confidential. However, if there was any reason to think that there was a risk of harm to you or others, then that would need to be shared to keep everyone safe.

With your permission, we will correspond with your GP or other healthcare professionals to let them know we are involved in your care and to update them about any support we are providing. This would be to ensure that your needs are being met at this time.

How do I arrange psychological support?

If you would like to meet with the psychologist, either as an individual or together as a family, you can ask any of the neonatal staff to refer you to the clinical psychologist and we will make contact with you as soon as possible.

If you have any further questions about the service please speak to a member of the neonatal unit staff.

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

Your newborn baby’s NHS number

An NHS number is allocated to everyone whose birth is registered with a Registrar of Births and Deaths in England and Wales. You already have an NHS number and your baby will be assigned an NHS number soon after birth. Your NHS number is unique to you and provides a reliable means of linking you to the medical and administrative information we hold about you. NHS numbers are allocated on a random basis and, in themselves, provide no information about the people to whom they relate.