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Major innovations for mums-to-be at John Radcliffe Hospital

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Mums-to-be in need of extra support during their pregnancy are now benefiting from a state-of-the-art baby monitoring system at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The Silver Star Society, part of Oxford Hospitals Charity, has funded a new world-leading system at the John Radcliffe Hospital to help monitor babies' health and detect potential distress, before the onset of labour.

This is based on computerised monitors (CTGs) that record and analyse the patterns of the babies' heartbeats. The computerisation has been entirely designed and tested in Oxford for over 40 years.

Four of the very latest CTG machines have been funded by the charity - which also hopes to fund a further two.

The monitors are mobile, which means they can be taken to the bedside.

In addition to monitoring babies, several of these state-of-the-art machines can also provide a facility for monitoring maternal observations.

In a world-first, all the computerised monitors are linked so that the information gathered can be viewed across all areas of the hospital, and continuously checked to maintain and improve its diagnostic accuracy.

Alison Wright, Ward Manager, said: "Some of the mums we support are carrying very small babies who need daily monitoring to make sure they aren't distressed.

"We also work with mums who have a long history of issues with pregnancy, such as recurrent miscarriages, so to know that we have the best possible equipment to monitor their babies is fantastic."

Professor Chris Redman, Emeritus Professor of Obstetric Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: "We are excited to be bringing the very best baby heart rate monitoring to every woman who needs it at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

"The equipment is patient-friendly and shows us more detailed and sensitive information about the health of the baby.

"Importantly, we are the first hospital in the world to link up these advanced computerised systems in this way, which means we will be able to actively improve its performance over the next decade.

"We envisage all maternity hospitals will work in this way in the future, but it's great to be the first."

Level 6 at the John Radcliffe is the home of the Silver Star Unit, which cares for about 500 women a year from across Oxfordshire and beyond, who have complications during pregnancy.

These include women who have suffered repeated miscarriages, are at risk of pre-eclampsia with high blood pressure, carry twins or triplets who sometimes run into problems, or have other problems which can be exceptionally complicated.

The monitors can also be used across other areas of the John Radcliffe Maternity unit, where about 6,700 babies are delivered a year.

Maggie Findlay, Fundraising Manager for Silver Star, said: "It's wonderful to have this new equipment and I simply can't thank all our supporters enough.

"They have taken part in so many amazing fundraising activities and now this is the result. We are so grateful to all of them for making such a difference."

Lisa Willis, from Carterton (pictured), is one of the first patients to benefit from the new equipment. She said: "This is my first baby and my blood pressure is high so they want to be sure that my baby is okay.

"It's really reassuring to know the unit here has such high-tech equipment and I feel really well-supported by the staff who are so friendly and professional."

Pawel Szafranski, software engineer at the Trust and the University of Oxford, said: "It's been really exciting help to create this new computer programme. It is very special to see the project come to life and contribute to the care of pregnant women, and to know that it will make a real difference to many families."

To support the Silver Star Society's fundraising and help purchase two further monitors, contact:

Maggie Findlay: / 01865 221718

Pictured: from left,  Kirsty Walton (Level 6 Manager), Maggie Findlay (Silver Star Charity), Professor Redman, Alison Wright (Level 6 Manager), Beth Albert (Silver Star Unit Manager), and Pawel Szafranski (Software engineer)