Research is very important as it enables doctors and nurses to find new and better ways of caring for premature and sick newborn babies.  The Neonatal unit at the RVI has a strong commitment to research, with staff contributing to local, national and global studies.

Tiny Lives Trust has helped the unit to stay at the forefront of developments in neonatal care by meeting the costs of a number of research studies in recent years. The findings from these studies are published in medical and nursing journals and presented at conferences, which means that we are helping to improve the care of premature and sick newborn babies all around the world.

You can find out more about research projects we have previously funded below.  The links to the full publications, for professionals and interested parties, will take you to a restricted area which will require you to setup login details, which will be stored in accordance with our data protection policy. 

Analysing the development and influences on the bowel flora of preterm infants with culture and molecular techniques

Together with Northumbria University, Tiny Lives have funded research that will lead to a greater understanding of the development of bowel flora in premature babies and why some babies go on to develop infection or necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). NEC and infection are leading causes of death and disability in premature babies, yet are poorly understood and difficult to prevent. Studies like this are important because they have the potential to identify ways of reducing the incidence of these life threatening conditions.

Antibody responses in full term and premature babies

Tiny Lives has funded research into the way that vaccinations work in both full term and premature babies. Previous studies have shown that babies born prematurely may respond differently and therefore the aim of this study is to gain further understanding of the level of protection for all babies, including those born prematurely. The study will test the response to immunisations using a number of laboratory techniques which will measure both the amount and the quality of protective antibodies to several of the infant immunisations given routinely to infants in the UK. These results will provide very valuable information on the response to routine vaccinations in some of the most vulnerable patients, thus enabling a better understanding of how to achieve the maximum level of protection for all babies.

Reproductive loss in multiple pregnancies: a qualitative study of parents’ and health professionals’ experiences

Reflecting our commitment to family support, Tiny Lives has also funded research that will investigate the experience and views of parents’ who have experienced a loss in a multiple pregnancy during pregnancy or whilst receiving care in the RVI neonatal unit. The study will also explore the experience of health professionals’ likely to be involved in their care. The findings will have direct and immediate effects on the RVI neonatal unit by enabling better support and provision to be given to both parents and health professionals in all cases that involve reproductive loss.

Parental and staff attitudes to withdrawal of active treatment in infants born preterm

Tiny Lives supported an innovative study that explored the feelings of both parents and staff when intensive care is no longer considered in the baby’s best interest. This study looked at an incredibly difficult and emotive area but has attracted wide spread interest nationally, in part because no one else has ever tackled such a sensitive area. It has led onto the study team securing a £38,000 grant from the Department of Health to run a series of workshops around the region. It was the original funding from Tiny Lives that made that possible, and allowed a series of presentations at major medical and nursing conferences in the UK.

Improving expressed breast milk provision in the neonatal unit

Breast milk is associated with a range of benefits in babies who are born preterm and/or sick. However, not all women may choose to initiate expression, and of those that do continued provision of breast milk may be challenging because of associated maternal anxiety and practical difficulties with expression. We aimed to improve both our initiation rates and the numbers still expressing at day 14 (D14) and discharge from the neonatal unit. A quality improvement (QI) program was designed and led by a single member of nursing staff. This identified potentially remediable factors and sought to improve them. Initiation rates increased from 76% to 90% and were maintained for the following 12 month period.  D14 rates increased from 46% to 90% (of those initiating) and discharge rates from 30% to 54%. A QI program can result in dramatic improvements in provision of breast milk within a relatively short period and is likely to be associated with a range of improved baby, maternal and health care benefits.

“Funding from Tiny Lives allows us to engage in research projects that might be hard to fund from more traditional sources. Tiny Lives is the ideal funder where the project focuses on issues that affect parents, the baby, and the staff and where immediate changes or improvements to care can be made” (Consultant, ward 35)


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