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Runner-up spot for midwife Heidi in national awards

A midwife who has halved smoking rates among pregnant women under the care of Poole Hospital has been placed second after being shortlisted from hundreds of nominations in a prestigious awards scheme.

Heidi Croucher was named runner-up in The British Journal of Midwifery Awards last week in the innovation in practice scheme. She has led the smoking in pregnancy service for the past four years at the hospital, and has seen the percentage of mums-to-be who smoke under the care of midwives there fall from 16 per cent to eight per cent, three per cent lower than the national average. Still births – one of the key risks associated with smoking – have also halved in the same time to around six per year.

She says that the reason for the success is in empowering women to understand the consequences for themselves, rather than handing out lots of literature and information.

“At around 12 per cent, the smoking rate in Dorset is higher than average,” says Heidi. “I use motivational interviewing – the women are the experts in themselves and they have the power to give up smoking.

“I’ve found it isn’t about leaflets and talking about risks, but about what’s important to the individual.

“Women feel really proud of themselves. For many it’s the first time they’ve quit smoking and it’s a real achievement.

“I’m thrilled to have been shortlisted and placed second overall from so many great entries.”

New mum Donna Morton, 36, said Heidi’s support really helped when she realised she had to give up smoking. Little Theo was delivered by caesarian section on 25 January after Donna had been smoke-free for six months.

“I’ve smoked for 15 years and used to be a heavy smoker,” said Donna. “I never thought I would be able to give up – I’ve never even tried before.

“At 10 weeks I was referred to Heidi and the stop smoking service, and I picked a date to quit the day after my 12 week scan.

“What really hit home was finding out that the amount of carbon monoxide (CO) produced by smoking is about three times higher for the baby than me – if you smoke 20 cigarettes it’s the equivalent in CO for the baby as 70.

“Giving up smoking is really liberating – I’d encourage everyone to at least try, the stop smoking service gives you all the tools to do it.”

Heidi is now targeting a further reduction in smoking rates, with the support of Mr Daniel Webster, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, who has recently been appointed lead consultant for smoking in pregnancy. He will run dedicated clinics with Heidi for women who smoke to offer the best help and support possible.

“The smoking rate among pregnant women is better than the national average, but we would like to reduce this still further,” said Daniel.

“Smoking when pregnant is linked to so many issues, including still birth and prematurity, even sudden infant death syndrome, so it’s vital we offer as much support to mums-to-be as we can.”

Heidi, whose post is funded by Public Health England (Dorset), attended The British Journal of Midwifery Awards event on 13 February in Leeds.

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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