The level of neonatal care a baby may need will vary from minimal intervention for a few minutes or hours through to considerable support over many weeks, months or even years.
These services are usually developed within clinical networks, each with the designated neonatal intensive care unit(s) providing both intensive and high dependency care that will also include a transport system which forms part of the specialised service. This also includes the medical care of the sickest babies who need surgery.
There are three categories of care:
- Special care (SC) is that provided for all other babies who could not reasonably be looked after at home by their mother. Babies receiving special care may need to have their breathing and heart rate monitored, be fed through a tube, need extra oxygen or be treated for jaundice; this also includes babies who are recovering from more specialist treatment before they can be discharged
- High dependency care (HDC) takes place in a neonatal unit and involves care for babies who need continuous monitoring, for example those who weight less than 1,000g (2lbs 3oz), or are receiving help with their breathing via continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or intravenous feeding, but who do not fulfil any of the requirements for intensive care.
- Intensive care (IC) is care provided for babies with the most complex problems who require constant supervision and monitoring and, usually mechanical ventilation (to help them breathe). Due to the possibility of sudden deterioration in their condition, a doctor must always be available.
More information can be found on the Department of Health website and the Newborn Networks