Monday 24 October 2011

My dream NICU

Now don't get me wrong, Joseph was born in a lovely hospital with a great unit in a regional part of Manchester. I have very fond memories now of our time there, and in fact, am now working in the hospital for a period of time and walk past it often.

A few months ago I was involved in a project for the charity Best Beginnings  which works to remove health inequalities in the UK. I was reassured because I found my experience so very different from my friends who live just down the Motorway in London.

Like all things in medicine neonatal care is on a continuum, continous improvement is essential, as theories of neonatal care as well as the equipment, are advancing all the time, and units need to respond to these changes, and deliver the benefits to the babies in their care, and their families.

I had the privelege of being able to tour St Mary's last week, which I was very apprehensive about . To be honest, I wasn't sure I would even take part in the tour, but at the last minute decided to do have a look around.

The unit was amazing, and what struck me first was how peaceful it was, its been constructed in such a way that the wards the babies are on are off a corridor, which helps contain noise. The bed spaces have been constructed with privacy in mind, so that families can have a bit of time with their baby without being overlooked.

There are two milk kitchens, just for the preparation and storage of breast milk, and two very private expressing rooms. If you do wish to express by the cotside you can do so and in HDU and the nursery they have curtains around each cotside. They didn't have this in our unit, you had to drag a screen in, and if there were more than 2 mums feeding, you had to wait!

In the actual rooms, each baby had toys in their cot, and personalised cot covers. Developmental care is taken seriously in NICU and they try to replicate the womb environment as much as possible, which is clearly not easy.

There are family support workers on site, as well as a breastfeeding counsellor. They encourage kangaroo care right from when the babies are tiny, even still ventilated. I wasn't able to give kangaroo care until my baby was 4 weeks old, and even then, it wasn't every day, it very much depended on the experience of the nursing staff on duty.

So what would be dream NICU be like, very much this one, where family centred care is at the heart of what they do, where nurses are experienced in managing the tiniest and sickest of babies, and where families are encouraged to be together, and to nurture their baby until they are well enough to go home.

I really admire the small hospitals who do not have the resources to compete with the big ones, and I have to say Joseph had exemplary care, but sometimes it was hard to learn about what was happening in teaching hospitals in say London, and that I didn't have the same opportunities to be with my baby physically as my friends did.

I hope that all units will continue working with one another and with organisations like Best Beginnings to help provide a standard level of care for these special little babies.


  1. My dream NICU you would be allowed to sleep beside your babies' incubator x x x That is one thing that they do in some countries in Europe that I really think we should look into doing here x

  2. Yes you are absolutely right, leaving your baby in hospital each night is the worst bit I think, and I completely forgot that in European countries you can stay. In paeds units you are encouraged to stay, why not in NICU?