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Petals baby loss charity has to suspend counselling

Bereaved parents have spoken of their concern after a baby loss counselling charity had to close its doors in Cambridge because of a lack of funds.

Petals, which counsels parents after a still birth, late miscarriage or infant death is temporarily suspending its operations in Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie hospitals.

This is because funds raised by volunteers are not enough to cover the charity’s costs and local NHS funding bodies are unable to help meet the cost of the service.

Karen Burgess from Petals baby loss charity
Karen Burgess from Petals baby loss charity

Karen Burgess, chief executive and founder of Petals, said: “Parents who experience the death of a baby have unique psychological requirements, due to the nature of the grief and trauma they suffer.

“These needs cannot be met by traditional perinatal mental health teams, which is why maternity units such as Ipswich Hospital are currently using some of their budget to outsource this service to Petals.

“We are disappointed that NHS leaders in Cambridge will not be taking responsibility for funding this vital service, particularly as their colleagues in Suffolk and North Essex have made that commitment.

“We want to reassure bereaved parents that we are doing everything we can to gain a sustainable funding source for the service so that we can get up and running again as soon as possible.”

In the last year, Petals saw 320 clients in Cambridge, with an average of 97 sessions per month for women and couples provided by five counsellors.

Parents who received this support had experienced a range of tragic circumstances including miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss.

Karen Burgess from Petals baby loss charity
Karen Burgess from Petals baby loss charity

With demand for this service on the increase, Petals requested £50,000 from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) towards its annual £70,000 costs.

But a CCG spokesperson said: “The CCG does not currently fund Petals and sadly it is not in the position to fund any new or additional services due to our financial situation.”

Cambridge mum Clare McCallum, a marketing manager, used the service after she lost three babies.

She said: “When I heard they had suspended the service, it made me gasp. In 2015 I had a late miscarriage. I gave birth to a baby girl at 21 weeks. Just before that I’d had my 20-week scan and thought my pregnancy was progressing fine but then my waters broke and I was in shock.

Clare McCallum (16446604)
Clare McCallum (16446604)

“When I found myself having to give birth after my baby had died I was very shocked and scared. The whole future I had expected had changed. That takes a lot of adjustment and the NHS don’t know how to provide that support. You can be in a maternity ward with other women who are about to give birth and that can be devastating.

“Petals really helped me pick up the pieces afterwards. They responded to my call and saw me quickly. Then they supported me through the following two years, which included two more miscarriages. I think I would have really struggled to come to terms with my experiences without this service.

“In the end we had a happy outcome and I had a baby boy. I also have an older daughter who was turning four, now she is eight. Before the first loss she thought she was having a baby sister and suddenly she wasn’t having that any more and now we had a grave to visit. Those are complex topics for little people and Petals helped us navigate that.”

Petals provides services for seven hospitals.

Sharon Coaker, who gave birth at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, also used Petals’ services after losing two children during labour and two after birth.

She said: “I think it is hugely disappointing there is not going to be enough money to run the service. I think it is definitely needed. The counselling they provide is so specialist and the psychological support you get from them is something you can’t get from family and friends.

“I just don’t know what you would do if you have nowhere to talk about it. It’s a very isolating and lonely experience.”

Visit petalscharity.org.

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