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Different Levels of Care

Neonatal units specialise in looking after babies who are very young, very small or sick and not all hospitals have facilities and staff to care for the smallest and sickest babies.  This means that your baby may need to be moved to another hospital to ensure they receive the right treatment for their current needs.  There are different levels of neonatal care and each unit is classified according to the complexity and intensity of care it can provide for your baby.

  • Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) - This is the highest level of care and is for the smallest and sickest babies; for example, babies who need breathing support with a ventilator, weigh less than 1000 gram or were born before 28 weeks‘ gestation. NICUs can offer your baby the entire range of neonatal care. If your baby has major surgery, they will spend some time recovering in the NICU after their operation. Not all NICUs can provide highly specialised services, such as neonatal surgery and these services are concentrated at just a few hospitals.
  • Local neonatal unit (LNU) - These units still provide sophisticated care, but the babies are not as ill as those in the NICU.  Babies weighing less than 1000 grams are sometimes cared for here if they are relatively strong.  The local neonatal unit can provide continuous positive airways pressure (CPAP) for breathing support, and can look after babies who need their breathing to be stimulated.  Your baby can also receive intravenous (IV) or tube feeding in the local neonatal unit.
  • Special care baby unit (SCBU) - This level of care is sometimes referred to as ‘low dependency’. The special care baby unit can offer your baby some kinds of tube feeding, oxygen and phototherapy (light treatment) for jaundice. Special care is also for babies who need to have their breathing or heartbeat monitored.  The unit can provide some intensive care in an emergency but not for longer periods.

In addition to the three levels of care in neonatal units, there is a fourth level: Transitional Care.

  • Transitional care - This means your baby still has some needs but is almost ready to go home. Most importantly you will become the main carer with support from a nursery nurse or other staff on the unit.