Merton Health Visiting Team exhibits fellowship projects at the NIHR event

Published: 11th August 2022


Indira Lopez-Bassols (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and Iman Hikal (Infant Feeding and Weight Management Lead), who are part of the Health Visiting team in Merton, were recently invited to the first National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) collaborative learning event post-lockdown. The interactive learning event was attended by researchers, healthcare professionals, partners, stakeholders, and patients across London to come together, share experiences, and learn from each other on how to build back better following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indira and Iman presented their incredible work on the Merton Specialist Breastfeeding Clinic. It comes after the team were selected for the NIHR fellowship programme last year. On the theme "Teamwork during a pandemic: Working together to improve care", they delivered a talk on how the Merton Specialist Breastfeeding clinic model adapted to become resilient and supported patients during the pandemic as well as future plans.

A presentation was delivered which provided an overview of their fellowship work and insight into the need for breastfeeding support and innovation across the UK which explored reducing variation in providing quality care and addressing a gap in the provision of highly specialised support for families facing complex breastfeeding challenges, as well as helping suboptimal breastfeeding duration rates in the UK.

Part of their fellowship project was to establish a "how-to" manual for setting up and running a Specialist Breastfeeding Clinic in the NHS, which had progressed through Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles testing use in practice. Analysis of the clinic as a model of care demonstrated that 83% of babies who attended the clinic were still receiving breastmilk beyond 6 months.

Another part of their fellowship project was to evaluate how the clinic adapted during the pandemic and the impact of continuing support in order to quantify its effect. Analysis of data shows 95% of service users continued breastfeeding beyond 6 to 8 weeks, and 79% continued breastfeeding beyond 6 months.

After the presentation, a professor and consultant paediatrician from London North West University Healthcare approached Indira and Iman and they were impressed by their work and considered replicating the new model of care.

Iman Hikal (Infant Feeding and Weight Management Lead) said: “At the event, it was intriguing to learn how other NHS services, particularly those involving technology and digital health are operating differently since the pandemic. It was also enlightening to learn about other improvement efforts that, though small, have enormous effects on patient experiences."

Looking ahead, the team at the Specialist Breastfeeding Clinic are seeking to undertake research using innovative technology and is currently working with the CLCH Research and Development team on the development.

Watch the highlights of the event and Iman and Indira's interview about their fellowship work on the NIHR official website.

Download the presentation that was displayed at the NIHR event.

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