New Ocean Pearl Suite: Supporting patients through maternity bereavement

Date published: 28 April 2022

Women in NW London who suffer late-term baby loss now have dedicated, purpose-built accommodation in a tranquil environment.

The Ocean Pearl Suite at Hillingdon Hospital offers women, their partners and families the space to grieve, to bond with their child and to spend time creating positive memories that would otherwise have been formed over many years.

The maternity bereavement suite, built as an extension to the main Maternity Unit at the hospital in Pield Heath Road, Hillingdon, has a delivery room, en suite bathroom and separate partner/visitor facilities, a kitchen, big screen TV, phone charging points and a secluded garden with a water feature.

The delivery room converts to the main bedroom and there is a sofa bed in the lounge. A ‘cold cot’ allows parents to stay with their baby in the suite during their time there. The whole suite is supported by a midwife base – a room where help and support are on hand, provided by one of the Trust’s midwives.

The Ocean Pearl Suite is entirely self-contained with its own discreet access via the garden. There is dedicated car parking alongside.

Its design was carefully planned through asking bereaved women what they would want for other bereaved women. Via a series of listening exercises carried out in their own home, their experiences were used to shape a support service and associated accommodation that will be used by those who come after them.

The total cost of the Ocean Pearl Suite was £400,000, of which £200,000 was raised by the Hillingdon Hospitals Charity through a number of fundraising activities, and this was matched by the Trust.

The Ocean Pearl Suite provides a calm environment away from the normal activity of a busy labour ward, where the sounds of babies and joyful mothers can be terribly distressing to a woman who has suffered baby loss.

Baby loss is more common than many people think and it is not unusual to find women who suffered it decades ago still reluctant to speak about it.

To support the provision of the Ocean Pearl Suite, the Hillingdon Hospitals Charity is providing the funding for ongoing counselling and advice from Petals stillbirth and baby loss charity. This is both after the loss of a baby at Hillingdon Hospital and should a woman decide to become pregnant again.

The Ocean Pearl Suite will be operational from May 2022.

Patricia Wright, Chief Executive of The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, formally inaugurated the Ocean Pearl Suite at a ceremony on Wednesday, 27 April held in the suite itself.

She said: “I’m delighted and so proud to be able to announce the opening our new Ocean Pearl Suite at Hillingdon Hospital.

“However, I’ll always be mindful that for every woman who is helped by this peaceful space and its kind and supportive team there is a story of sadness and loss.

“I find it reassuring – as I hope it will be for those women, their partners and families – that we can bring some measure of comfort and the very best of care at a most difficult time.

“I’d like to thank everyone, from within our Trust and from our wonderful community here in Hillingdon and beyond, who have helped to make this a reality.”

Julie Cooper, Trust Director of Midwifery and Governance for Planned Care, said: “Our entire Midwifery Department welcomes the new maternity bereavement suite.

“As midwives, nurses, doctors and support staff, we have long recognised the benefits a facility like this would bring. We experience the heartache of baby loss alongside the women in our care, and we know the difference this will make to them and to those who look after them.

“So although today is not a time for joyful celebration, when you consider the reasons behind the provision of this excellent new facility, we do, however, mark its opening with a good deal of professional satisfaction and the hope of helping women who need it long into the future.”