Neonatal units

At the Royal Free London, special care is provided for babies who need to be monitored closely because they have been born slightly early or are unwell. This service is available at both Barnet Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital. Intensive care for more premature or unwell babies who need specialist care is located at Barnet Hospital only.

Each unit has a multidisciplinary ward round between 9am and midday. Parents are invited to be present at this time and will have an opportunity to ask questions. Both units are also dedicated to the implementation of the 'baby friendly' initiative with the aim of promoting and improving breastfeeding uptake.

Neonatal unit information for parents during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic

Having a baby in the neonatal unit can be a worrying time for parents, but especially during these challenging times. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the neonatal teams across the Royal Free London have had to adapt their practice to keep your babies, and the staff who care for them safe. We have put together a neonatal unit information pack for families here with useful advice to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. This pack includes information on:

  • Visiting your baby on the neonatal unit.
  • Making the most of your time on the unit and ideas on how to stay connected when you are not visiting.
  • Expressing breastmilk: how to get started and how to maintain your milk supply after you go home.
  • Looking after yourself emotionally including tips from our veteran parents on what they found helpful.
  • The first steps home: some information about what support is available when you first take your baby home from the neonatal unit.
  • Little Stars: a post discharge 5-week course run by our neonatal occupational therapist on the Starlight neonatal unit at Barnet Hospital which is now running virtually.
  • Resources available to you both from the Royal Free London and also from other organisations.

Peer support: advice from veteran parents

Starlight neonatal unit - Barnet Hospital

The Starlight neonatal unit at Barnet Hospital has 30 cots for babies born from 27 weeks gestation onwards. We provide different levels of care depending on a baby’s development and condition, including neonatal intensive care for newborn babies. The Starlight unit is the first UK neonatal unit to provide 10 individualised care rooms that allow family centred developmental care where parents can stay throughout the neonatal journey; this allows parents to learn valuable skills and knowledge while being supported by trained staff in order to confidently care for their baby.

Read our news story about individual care rooms.

A neonatal nursing team is also stationed at Barnet Hospital with the aim of reducing the length of stay for premature babies on the neonatal care unit by supporting parents with planning and advice in the initial period at home.

Take a look at our Starlight neonatal unit photo gallery.

Neonatal unit, 6 West B - Royal Free Hospital

The neonatal unit on ward 6 West B at the Royal Free Hospital offers care to infants of 34 weeks gestation and above in order to support the establishment of feeding and growing. Intensive care is not available at the Royal Free Hospital. Babies requiring intensive care are transferred to Barnet Hospital by a designated medical transport team. The Royal Free Hospital offers 'rooming-in' rooms for parents to stay in the 24 hour period prior to discharge with their baby in order to care for their infants and develop knowledge and confidence while still being supported on the unit by nursing staff. 

Babies who require specialist neonatal care at Barnet Hospital or other hospitals may be transferred back to the Royal Free Hospital when they are stable for continuing care.

When can my baby go home?

There is no set criteria for a baby to be discharged home but the neonatal care unit is able to confidently discharge babies as young as 34 weeks, weighing from 1600 grams. Parents are supported with feeding, medication, oxygen therapy and help with any on-going medical needs.

Find out about visiting hours and location.

Image: Starlight neonatal unit