Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex visited the maternity bereavement suite at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent. Sophie is highly involved with charities supporting parents, children and families. The maternity bereavement suite was funded in part by the stillbirth charity, Abigail’s Footsteps, the Medway NHS Foundation Trust and private donations. Sophie was due to visit Abagail’s Footsteps last year, but her event was cancelled because of bad weather.
This was when she was scheduled to officially open the suite. Abagail’s Footsteps was founded by David and Jo Ward of Rochester. They lost their daughter, Abagail in 2009. Work began on the suite of rooms, fondly referred to as Abagail’s Place in 2016, on what would’ve been Abagail’s seventh birthday. The Ward’s helped in the original design of the bereavement suite, which is soundproof so grieving parents and families won’t be disturbed by the cries and sounds of other happier families; something the Ward’s weren’t able to experience when they lost their daughter.
Last year, Abigail’s Footsteps vice-president Cheryl Baker visited the suite for a sneak preview along with other members of the charity and some of those who had a part in building the rooms. She told Kent News Online: “At a time in parents’ lives when their world has crashed around them, it is a place of tranquillity and calm, and which, I believe, will help to ease their pain.”
Lady Astor of Hever, charity patron, said: “Although nothing can replace a child, this beautiful bereavement suite will give the parents and families the space and peace that they so desperately need at this tragic time.
“This hospital had nothing to offer and now it does. I am so happy to be a part of this process.”
Mr Ward said: “We believe that every maternity unit should have a purpose-built bereavement suite where parents can spend precious time with their stillborn baby away from the cries of newborns.”
The bereavement suite was praised by the Medway NHS Foundation Trust’s latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) report, as “the gold standard in the provision of care for parents and families who experience a stillbirth.” Mr Ward said of the Countess visit: “We are delighted and honoured that HRH the Countess of Wessex has visited Abigail’s Place.
“This is our first purpose-built bereavement suite where parents can spend precious time with their stillborn baby away from the cries of newborns.
“It is now the template for maternity units across the country and we are already working with other trusts to help them to achieve the same high standards.”
And this is indeed true as Abagail’s Footsteps is continuously working to campaign and fundraise at the national level for other NHS hospitals to maintain maternity bereavement suites. Abagail’s Footsteps is also working to train midwives on ‘compulsory bereavement training’ across the United Kingdom.
Before ending her visit, the Countess met with trustees from Abagail’s Footsteps and hospital staff before unveiling a plaque commemorating her visit.