Health Minister Robin Swann recently visited the South West Acute Hospital where he had the opportunity to visit the Human Milk Bank which helps premature and seriously ill babies.
The Bank provides milk to all Trusts across Northern Ireland, as well as to 20 hospitals in the Republic of Ireland. It has been operational since 2000 and processes over 1,600 litres of human donor breast expressed milk (DEBM) a year for use in Neonatal and Infant Surgical Units.
Speaking after his visit, Minister Swann highlighted the importance of the service: “Safe and screened donor breast milk makes an important contribution to the care of premature and sick infants. It also helps to significantly reduce the number of cot days required by babies in neonatal units.
“The Bank has seen a 25% increase in demand since 2020 and therefore is appealing for more women to come forward and help provide essential donor breast milk for premature and seriously ill babies.”
The Minister also recognised those behind the successful service: “The generosity of donors, voluntary drivers and the dedicated team in the Bank have helped thousands of vulnerable babies since 2000 and I want to place on record my sincere thanks to them.”
The Human Milk Bank, based in the South West Acute Hospital, is one of four across the UK and the only one on the island of Ireland. In 2021, the Milk Bank recruited 375 new donors which allowed it to issue DEBM to 844 babies. It supports premature and ill babies including premature twins, triplets and quads supporting mothers who are unable to produce enough milk of their own at this time.
Welcoming the Health Minister to the Human Milk Bank Hilary Campbell, Head of Service for Public Health at the Western Trust said: “We were delighted to welcome Health Minister Robin Swann to visit our Human Milk Bank Service at the South West Acute Hospital. This is an incredible service which helps to provide essential donor breast milk for babies in neonatal units in hospitals throughout Ireland.
“Last year the Human Milk Bank provided donor milk for 844 premature babies, of which 234 were either a twin or a triplet. So you can see it is essential that we continue to recruit donors at this time. We would appeal to expectant mums to consider becoming a donor and for our donor mums to spread the word about the Human Milk Bank as this is the best way to help us recruit new mums!”
During his visit to the South West Acute Hospital, the Minister also visited the Children’s Ward where he received an update on ongoing work to increase paediatric surgical activity following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on waiting lists.
Minister Swann also met with the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) specialist organ donation staff at the South West Acute Hospital and thanked NHSBT for its support of the deemed consent legislation which the Assembly passed in February this year. The Minister is encouraging all families across Northern Ireland to discuss organ donation before deemed consent comes into effect in spring 2023, saying “while the new system will help us to provide more lifesaving transplants, families will always be consulted about organ donation, so it important for us all to have an informed conversation and to let your loved ones know your decision”.
Notes to editors:
- For more information on becoming a donor visit: Human Milk Bank | Western Health & Social Care Trust (hscni.net), phone (028) 68628333 or email email@example.com
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