The Baby Beat Story
The following story is as told by Christine Singleton.
Christine was the Baby Beat Appeal Manager from 1991 to 2007 and the story is as told on her retirement in May 2007.
"It is said that stories about people are more interesting than ones about organisations - but I think an exception is The Baby Beat Appeal. It has a mind of its own, a heart and is driven by the needs of its Maternity Unit and community. It's an emotive Appeal - and like some of our babies it had a rough birth, but I am happy to say it is now very healthy - a boisterous 19 year old - a good outcome."
"In October 1987 the first stirrings of The Baby Beat Appeal started with a 'moan' from a frustrated midwife that there 'wasn't enough kit around'. Mr Ian Manson, Consultant and Clinical Director, was also concerned that there were only two monitors for sixteen cubicles in the Delivery Suite. What would happen if more than two mothers needed monitors at the same time? Ahead of his time he had identified new technology he needed, but the cost was £250,000 and the Health Authority said they couldn't fund the project."
"Mr Manson's team started fundraising with sponsorship events such as the Krypton Factor and a Pram Push and at the same time they set up The Baby Beat Appeal in April 1988 established under the Chairmanship of Mr Manson to '...purchase equipment designed to monitor the unborn child and its mother through pregnancy to the point of birth...' and the Health Authority agreed to maintain and replace equipment funded by The Appeal. They now had a charity specifically designed to guide donations into the front end of ante natal care and Sir Tom Finney agreed to be our patron."
"In l989 the Health Authority Board assessed that it was going to take until the year 2000 to raise £¼ million and decided to bring in a professional fundraising company to officially launch The Appeal and hopefully bring in some big donations. This exercise was expensive, drained the charity's funds and did not produce the desired result - their contract was cancelled."
"For the next few months busy medical secretaries tried to keep the charity going - but anyone who has ever worked as a medical secretary in the NHS will know, there is hardly time for their own job, let alone keeping an ailing charity going. Around March 1991, just 3 years after the Appeal was established, Mr Manson approached me to ask if I would take on the job of 'closing down' the charity and once I agreed, he persuaded the Health Authority to fund the 'run down' for 4 weeks' at a time."
"Mr Manson handed over his office to The Appeal and from this point on until he retired his work station was one corner of his medical secretary's desk plus a chair. From now on the Appeal office was open each morning - I designed a leaflet and set up an answering service. On the commercial side - there was a 'little kiosk' in the foyer of the Unit, selling toiletries for mother and baby, sweets, drinks and a few baby clothes - but the opening hours were 'hit and miss'. I advertised for volunteers in all post offices in the vicinity of the hospital, organised a rota to keep the 'kiosk' open for 40 hours per week and displayed our opening hours."
"Once the commercial side was 'ticking over' it was possible to concentrate on the fundraising side, run with the publicity and develop PR."
"Over the next few months I learned something about Baby Beat that still holds good - it had a mind of its own - it didn't want to die - and it had responded well to TLC. Donations and takings from the shop slowly but surely increased - we were making money. At the end of Guild Year 1992 we reached our target - £250,000, boosted, by a huge donation of £60,000 from the Guild Event - SPAR ON THE PARK. Publicity from this event brought in more substantial donations. At this point the Health Authority withdrew financial support and the cost had to be picked up by The Appeal - this was a blow - but we had expected it. Much more equipment was needed and I was asked if I would stay on."
"In January 1994 Sir Tom Finney and Mr Ian Manson formally opened our new walk-in shop - the takings took off again. As the shop expanded it was necessary to look further afield for specialist suppliers of premature and newborn baby clothes."
"Volunteers - crucial to our work - are like gold. These are wonderful ladies, their families now grown, willingingly giving their time to helping the 'unborn' generation. We now have around 90 volunteers who work in the shop and office, all have their reasons for doing voluntary work and come from all walks of life. During school holidays, children - and even some who were born in the Unit - like to come along with their relatives, our volunteers, to help in the shop and later on when working for their Duke of Edinburgh Awards, they return to do their voluntary service. The children couldn't have a better example from an older generation. The old helping the young, and the young helping the old. Baby Beat has the largest contingent of volunteers in the Lancashire Teaching Hospital Trust."
"Our Core Volunteers - are the ladies that in l988 when they were in their late 50's and 60's rallied to the call for volunteers. Baby Beat is now almost 20 years old and our flag bearers are now in their late 70's and early 80's but still want to carry on as long as they can. Our younger recruits work with them to enable them to do this. We have a wonderful lady who is now 82 years old and during the War she served in the RAF - her work was classified 'secret'. Occasionally ladies with problems need support to face the world - when they come to us they work in the shop with a companion volunteer to help them regain their confidence and become independent again."
In 1996 we reached our £250,000 just as Mr Manson retired and the new Chairman, Mr Sean Hughes, took over - he could double as Pierce Brosnan - and is arguably better looking! He is very popular with the nurses, ideal for us and a wonderful 'front' man for The Appeal."
"The charity funds now give the medical staff freedom to purchase innovative technology and our current leaflet lists what the Appeal has funded to date, beginning with the latest purchases:"
- Delivery Suite - 8 Infusion Pumps and a Foetal Pulse Oximeter
- M1 Ward - 2 Datascopes and a Bladder Scanner
- Ante Natal Clinic - a Datascope
"I recently asked the Chairman, what items we bought in the early 90's were now the 'norm ' - he looked at the list in our current leaflet and said 'everything' - we are ahead of most Units in the UK with regard to new technology because of The Appeal's work."
Our Constitution and Consequent 'Grey Areas'
"Our remit is to raise money for foetal monitoring equipment catering for the front end of bringing a baby into the world - from conception to birth - but there are 'grey areas' and therefore over the last few years we have underwritten the following:"
Bereavement Counselling Project
""In 2004 we funded the 2 year Bereavement Counselling Project because the Unit's work involves caring for mothers and babies whatever the outcome, so we were more than happy to fund midwife training in this important aspect of care."
Research into miscarriages and difficulties in conceiving
"The Appeal funded this aspect of research - very important to couples who have difficulties conceiving and carrying a baby."
MUMS IT system
"This was funded by The Appeal until this important work was taken over by the Trust."
"Is a record of all donations made to The Appeal 'in memory' of a child or adult. Many donations are made 'in lieu of flowers' or on Silver, Golden and Ruby Wedding Anniversaries or 'special' birthdays and this helps fund and support our work for babies as yet 'unborn' and for parents who have lost babies it is a great comfort to be able to write their thoughts, at the time, in this book."
"In September 2004 the Maternity Unit moved to a state-of-the-art building on the Royal Preston Hospital site and we now have a new shop, office and stockroom at the entrance to the Unit."
"When I agreed to help all those years ago, I had no idea then what the future would hold. On reflection it was the right time for me - as much as I helped The Appeal - the Appeal helped me. I did everything I knew to keep it going - just as the midwives do for their babies. All my theories I was able to put into practice and run an operation 'my way', but it was a busy consultant who gave me the opportunity."
"As I retire today the 31st May 2007 I would like to thank all the people of Preston for their support over the first 20 years of The Appeal and I now hand you over to my successor - the next Baby Beat Appeal Manager - Karen Entwistle. If you need more information about our charity please ring the office 01772 524414, and if you need to leave a message you will hear a child's voice - the voice of Baby Beat."