The Northern Star Bereavement Suite opening day.
The Northern Star Bereavement Suite.

A new bereavement suite for parents who have suffered an early pregnancy loss such as miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy has officially opened today, Monday 20 November at the Gilbert Bain Hospital.

The new suite, named the Northern Star, provides bereaved parents with a comfortable and private space. The name represents the Northern Star as the guiding light.

As part of the renovation work, the dedicated suite within the maternity department includes a bedroom space and shower facilities. 

Chief Midwife Jacquie Whitaker said: “This has been a project that has meant a lot to all of us. We wanted to be able to provide an appropriate space for families and have worked collaboratively with Sands, the UK’s leading baby loss charity, and the Estates team to ensure that we have somewhere that is peaceful and distanced away from the main maternity ward. It was also important that we made it look more homely than a clinical room and we worked with the architects to use colour and natural materials as well as sourcing soft furnishings that give the room a less clinical feel. I am really pleased that we have been supported by the Board and Estates team to make this a reality.

Another important feature of the new suite is the separate entrance and exit, which means that bereaved families do not have to use the main door into the maternity department.

Jacquie added: “Before Northern Star was commissioned, families used the main entrance to the maternity department. The room used was right by the entrance door and could often be noisy, especially when there was a lot of activity in the department. Now we have a separate entrance that affords peace and privacy.”
NHS Shetland has worked in partnership with baby loss charity Sands and a parent that has used the service in the past on the project.

Marie Manson, Shetland Sands Chair said: “Shetland Sands is delighted to see the opening of the new bereavement suite; this will give grieving parents the privacy and quiet space they need.

“We have been really happy to be involved with this project and hope to continue to provide support and any materials required for the suite, these items will be purchased using funds donated by the members of the public in Shetland and further afield.”

Chief Executive Brian Chittick said: As a Board, it was so important that we supported this project to acknowledge the journey that some parents have to take following early pregnancy loss. The team wanted to provide a compassionate and caring environment for families and we are all so proud of their efforts and the establishment of the Northern Star suite.”


About Sands 

Sands is the UK's leading charity working to save babies' lives and support bereaved families. Sands’ vision is a world where fewer babies die and when a baby does die, anyone affected receives the best possible care and support for as long as it is needed.

Sands is here for anyone affected by pregnancy loss or the death of a baby. The charity provides bereavement support services both nationally through its Freephone helpline, mobile app, online community and resources, and locally through a network of around 100 regional support groups based across the UK and run by trained befrienders. 

Sands works in partnership with health care professionals, trusts and health boards and offers a range of training programmes and bereavement care resources to ensure that every bereaved parent and family receives the best possible care wherever they are in the UK.

Sands supports and promotes research to better understand the causes of baby deaths and save babies’ lives. The charity also raises awareness of baby loss and works with governments, key influencers and other stakeholders to make reducing the number of babies dying a priority nationally and locally.

Published: Monday, 20th November 2023