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Feeding parents of children in hospitals was a priority for Sophie, who could never understand why parents were not provided a meal when staying with their child. Throughout her treatment across three hospitals, we found the same issue in each, which is common across the country.

According to our research, only 30% of hospitals in the country feed the parent that stays. Often, children like Sophie don't want their parents to leave their bedside, which results in them not being able to eat. Stories of parents not eating for five days, being unable to afford to eat, or not being able to leave their child to eat drive us to fill these gaps. Eating a balanced diet will help give parents the stamina to deal with the stress of having a sick child in the hospital.

Sophie’s Legacy charity has been providing snack and toiletry boxes to 17 children’s wards in Portsmouth and Southampton hospitals weekly since January 2022. We want to ensure parents have access to food on the ward 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The feedback has been extremely positive, with parents often saying without the food we provide, they wouldn’t have eaten. We will continue to provide these until they are not needed. We now also have the same boxes in hospitals in Chichester, Guildford, Basingstoke, Winchester, Isle of Wight, Poole, Dorchester and Salisbury, covering the children’s wards and Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU).

 

We have been working with Phil Shelley (NHS Food Review), Ruth May (Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England), and Kate Pye (Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England), along with staff in various hospitals across the country. One of their research findings is that the cost for one parent to eat in a hospital is around £15-£18 a day. Given the current financial challenges, this means some parents will not be able to afford to eat.

 

Sophie’s story was presented to the NHS board in February 2022, and we received a letter stating their commitment to trying to achieve Sophie’s wishes. I shared Sophie’s story with the Southampton Hospitals Trust Board in September 2022, which initiated a £4 parent meal voucher per day at the hospital.

Sophie’s story has been shared with many hospitals across the country with the aim to implement her wish of parents being fed. Locally, in Hampshire, we have purchased freezers for parents’ rooms and filled them with meals from COOK. We wanted to provide parents with nutritious food. We are grateful to COOK for choosing us locally to provide 30 meals a week for free for the last two years.

 

In addition to snack boxes and frozen meals, we also provide pizza nights to children’s wards. This scheme initially began at QA Hospital, Portsmouth, in May 2022 every Saturday evening and now extends to Guildford, Chichester, Royal Marsden, Poole, and Isle of Wight.

 

In March 2023, an eight-week trial began of feeding the parent that stays overnight with their child at Alder Hey, Birmingham, Bristol, Great Ormond Street, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, and Southampton children’s hospitals. This trial was funded by Child Alliance but named "Sophie's Legacy Pilots." This has been a huge achievement so far. A number of the hospitals, such as Alder Hey, Sheffield, and Great Ormond Street, are still feeding parents a year on.

Sophie’s Legacy recognised the need to support smaller hospitals with one or two children’s wards to feed parents. In March 2024, hospitals were invited to apply for funding from Sophie’s Legacy. We received many applications and selected 15 hospitals around the country to receive £5,000 each. The project started in June 2024 and ran for around eight weeks. Each hospital had to demonstrate how they would sustain the project after the funding ended. The goal is for all hospitals to adopt this as best practice and continue to feed parents long term.

Sophie’s wish for parents to be fed is spreading nationwide. Hospitals like Medway and Hull have implemented feeding parents inspired by her story. This is truly amazing and is a movement that will continue to grow.

 

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