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Silver Star celebrates 50 years of care

03/11/2020

The Silver Star Unit, which provides special care at the John Radcliffe Hospital for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy, has turned 50.

Caring for about 500 women a year from across Oxfordshire and beyond, the unit looks after those with maternal medical conditions, either pre-existing, such as hypertension or epilepsy, or as a result of the pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia.

Women with high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney or heart problems, and other medical complications are offered Silver Star care at the John Radcliffe, run by Oxford University Hospitals.

In early April 1970, Professor Chris Redman, starting a new initiative as a Junior Lecturer at the time, consulted with a young woman in the old Nuffield Maternity Hospital on Walton Street who had experienced multiple pregnancy losses for unexplained reasons.

From there, the Silver Star Unit was born.

Prof Redman said: "To signal the young woman's special needs to staff, a Silver Star label was attached to the front of her notes. In the end, after heartbreaking ups and downs, this young woman, our first Silver Star mum, was able to have a daughter and in due course become a grandmother.

"I had no idea, and certainly no plan, that this would become the caring service, unique at the time, which is now Silver Star.

"A new and wonderful team of committed carers – midwives, obstetricians, and physicians – is continuing this important work."

The Silver Star Society was formed in 1986-87 when a group of mothers, confined to hospital before having their babies, created a support group to raise funds for the Unit.

To begin with, the Society bought equipment for the Unit, particularly IT equipment that wasn’t paid for by the NHS at the time.

Nowadays, the Society, which is part of Oxford Hospitals Charity, raises money to make care for mothers better in every possible way, topping up NHS funding to make the important extras possible. It also funds ground-breaking innovations and research, including a world-first monitoring system.

Maggie Findlay, Manager at the Silver Star Society, said: "We are proud to support the Silver Star Unit and the team that work tirelessly to care for Oxfordshire mums-to-be. 

"The 50th Anniversary of the Silver Star Unit in 2020 is a true celebration of what the NHS is so good at. The unit has helped so many Oxfordshire families over the last 50 years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our marking of this milestone is not quite what we had hoped for, but we still want to recognise how far we have come."

In March, the Silver Star Society funded 60 blood pressure monitors so that some patients could self-monitor at home, reducing their need to come to the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic, and helping staff manage outpatients remotely without compromising their care.

Ali Cuthbertson, Director of Midwifery at the Trust, said: "We are incredibly fortunate to have the Silver Star Unit here at OUH. Over the last 50 years countless families have been supported by care which is both innovative and compassionate.

"The dedicated team have worked hard to successfully improve care year on year in their endeavour to achieve the best possible outcomes for mothers and babies."

The author Clare Mackintosh, current patron for Silver Star, said: "The Silver Star Society works tirelessly to support staff, services and parents, and the equipment and training they fund has never been more essential.

"For 50 years Professor Redman and the Silver Star team have been protecting pregnancies and saving lives. I cannot thank them enough for my own Silver Star family, and we will all be raising a glass to wish the whole team a very happy birthday. Here’s to the next 50 years."

Award winning director, Armando Iannucci, a former patron, said: "We owe everything to the Silver Star Unit at the John Radcliffe. All three of our children were born there and my wife and I saw close up the tremendous care and expertise of the team – its research and practices are unsurpassed."

Broadcaster Maggie Philbin, Silver Star’s first patron who ran the London Marathon to raise funds, described the Silver Star staff as "inspiring" and "immensely caring".

She added: "A very happy 50th birthday to all the talented, hardworking and compassionate people who have made the Silver Star Unit such a special place which has transformed outcomes for parents and children not only in the region but through their ground breaking research, all over the world."

To support the Silver Star Society’s fundraising and help support the John Radcliffe’s Maternity Unit contact Maggie Findlay by email: silverstar.society@ouh.nhs.uk by telephone: 01865 221718 or visit the Silver Star website.

Pictured: Maggie Findlay, Manager at the Silver Star Society, and Beth Albert, Lead Midwife and Manager on the Fetal Maternal Medicine Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital