Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Mason at 28 weeks oldOne in ten babies in the UK needs specialist care when born.

Each year over 900 babies who need specialist care are treated in the L&D’s NICU. The unit was originally built for just 20 cots, but with such a high demand for places, it now accommodates 29 cots in the same space. However, the demand for specialist baby facilities in this part of the country is still increasing.

The L&D nurseries are becoming cramped, noisy, too busy and have intrusive, bright lighting. There is also a lack of ‘private’ space for mums to be alone whilst breast-feeding, or for doctors to talk to parents about their babies.

The environment in which babies are treated plays an important role in their recovery and has an impact on both the speed and quality of their recovery. Creating a suitable healing environment in the existing unit is simply not possible.

The NICU Development

The L&D was chosen as the Lead Centre to provide the highest level of neonatal care across Beds and Herts. The Acute Services and New Ward Block currently being built will provide additional cots; parent’s rooming in rooms; an extra isolation cubicle; a designated breast-feeding room; a quiet room for parents and a separate staff room. As well as providing the highest-level of clinical care, the new unit will be designed to create the best possible environment in which the babies can be cared for and get better.

Environmental enhancements will include individual lighting at each cot so staff can treat one baby without disturbing the whole nursery; more space around each cot side so that parents can remain with their baby even if there are a number of staff treating the baby; state-of-the-art equipment which is considerably quieter than the older models and more homely décor across the ward to enable parents to feel more relaxed, which helps them to bond with their baby.

The Story Continued…

In 2008 the NICU and Charity Team started the NICU Appeal to fundraise for the original new unit and new equipment. Over £800,000 was raised in a two year span!

Spend, Spend, Spend!

So how did we use this money you ask? The NICU Team have purchased:

  • 3 New NiRS Monitors – this system provides real-time monitoring of changes in oxygen in the blood in the brain or body tissues in neonates. This plays an important role as a valuable “first alert” because it monitors for deteriorating patient conditions. As a centre that provides therapeutic cooling, this provides additional information for these vulnerable babies.
  • A new GE Shuttle for patient transport – The Shuttle is a transportable power source that can be attached to beds, Incubators and Warmers. The Shuttle connects to provide electrical power, as well as provisions for medical gas management. This is required for patient care during transport around the hospital, providing continuous patient management without interrupting critical points of treatment like IV medications and monitoring. Premature babies need a warm, stable thermal environment. That’s because their lives depend on it. And when they need to be transported from the labour room to the NICU, the Shuttle system does more than just make that journey away from mom gentler––it makes it safer too.

SIRS monitor Shuttle

The NICU Team are also placing these items into the new department:

  • 3 Secure Web Cameras – Childbirth is an emotional event for parents and families, particularly when a baby’s first few critical days, weeks, or even months are spent in the NICU. 24/7 video streaming helps families feel more involved right from the start, making them partners in the process of giving their baby the best start in life. Video streaming on demand helps reduce the distress and anxiety mothers can feel at being separated from their baby. The visual stimulus supports the mother-baby bonding process, and has the potential to assist with milk flow during breastmilk expression whilst mother and baby are separated. The video streaming will particularly help those mothers who have given birth in another hospital, her baby has had to be transferred to our level 3 NICU or specialist care/treatment and the mother is too unwell to move with her baby.
  • Biometric fingerprint system – This is a secure system and will ensure parents don’t have to wait outside or ask permission to see their own baby. It lets parents know they are trusted members of the team, and that this is our shared environment. It will further reduce noise levels within the unit as there will be far fewer doorbell rings.
  • Artwork in communal areas – The aim of the artwork is to wrap the wall in nature bringing the outside in. Nature images have been shown to promote feeling of wellbeing and detract from all the clinical settings.
  • 2 New Treatment Rooms – The aim is to create treatment rooms that engages the baby but also supports the family. Treatment of small babies can be truly frightening for families, by adding sensory images to the wall and ceiling, in black and white (as babies can’t see colour for the first 8 weeks of their lives) this will reduce the clinical feel of the room and provide some of that important stimulants for babies development. Small sensory projectors that play relaxing music and project images in light around the room will also be placed for babies development.
  • New Bereavement Suite – “Having been on the family end with the death of a baby, I found it helped to see that the team cared for the baby I loved” a member of staff. The purpose of the space is core in the journey to compassionate bereavement, supporting families to form treasured memories, which the Team have a privilege in sharing. NICU has never had a dedicated bereavement room and the Team truly feel that this space will support this process by being homely and removed from its clinical surroundings, especially as most families are overwhelmed and not prepared.
  • 2 New Rooming in Rooms – These 2 news room will support parents to learn life care for their new baby before going home. For some babies they will require ongoing medical care which parents can provide, this allows baby to go home. Parents learn how to look after their baby with staff nearby to support. This reduces the stress and pressure parents can feel in the transition from 24hour care to being at home.
  • NICU Balcony – As part of the Acute Service Block development, a new outdoor space is being created, half of the balcony space will be used for NICU patients and their families. The planned use would be as part of either a discharge plan for families who have been on the Unit a long time, but also a quiet space for reflection or in some cases, an opportunity to take the baby outside as part of an end of life plan.

Continued Support

These changes are amazing and will make such a difference to the patients, their families and the staff. There is still so much that can be done!

To show your support of this department or the Parent’s Accommodation, you can:

  • Fundraise for us. Please contact for a fundraising pack
  • Make a donation via our JustGiving page
  • Send a cheque made payable to Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Charity to the Charity Team, L&D Hospital, Lewsey Road, Luton, LU4 0DZ. Please place NICU on the back of the cheque
  • Make a payment over the phone. Call 01582 718 289 and speak to a member of the team
  • Make a BACS payment. Please email for bank details.