The neonatal units in Dorset form part of the Thames and Wessex Neonatal Network.

Some babies require special care, whether due to prematurity, illness at delivery, or health problems during their stay at hospital.

The staff understand that it is an extremely emotional time when your baby/babies are staying in a neonatal unit. They will give you as much support and information as possible. The team will explain your baby’s treatment and show you how to use any relevant equipment. They will support you to do as much of your baby’s care as possible, and you will be fully involved in any decisions about the treatment they need. Staff can also signpost you to any additional support you might need.

Learn more about babies who need special care.

Parent Advisory Group – Neonatal Network South East.

There are two hospitals in Dorset that look after babies requiring special care: Poole and Dorchester.

High Dependency Unit/Intensive Care Unit: 0300 0192330

Special Care Unit: 0300 0192366

Matron, Daniel Lockyer: 0300 0198217

Poole Neonatal Unit (NNU) is part of the Thames Valley and South West Operational Delivery Network. It is located on the first floor of the Maternity Unit on St Mary’s Road in Poole, next to the postnatal ward.

Poole NNU has 20 cots: 4 Intensive Care, 6 High Dependency Care and 10 Special Care cots.

The unit takes babies born from 27 weeks – babies born earlier will be transferred to another hospital.

Your baby/babies will be cared for by nurses, midwives, neonatologists (doctors specialising in babies) and advanced nurse practitioners (nurses with advanced training in caring for babies).

If you plan to breastfeed but your baby is not able to feed initially, the staff will help you to express milk that can be fed to your baby. If your baby requires a feeding tube, they will teach you how to use it so that you can get involved in feeding your baby. Once your milk comes in, hospital grade pumps are available for all NNU mums to use. There is also an expressing room if you don’t feel comfortable using the pump by your baby’s cot. If you are struggling to express milk, the staff can support you.

We hold weekly parent craft and resuscitation sessions for parents with babies in the neonatal unit. Once your baby is discharged, there are regular coffee mornings for parents with babies who’ve been discharged from the neonatal unit within the last 9 months.


Parents, grandparents and siblings can visit babies in the NNU at any time of the day or night. Babies can have a maximum of 3 visitors at any time, including 1 parent.

Visiting hours for other visitors are 13.30-15.00 and 18.00-19.00. It’s very important that you take care of yourself, and make sure you eat and drink enough while your baby / babies are staying in the NNU. The hospital canteen, Costa Coffee and M&S can be found in the main hospital. There is also a small petrol station shop for convenience on St Mary’s Road.

If you need to stay in the Poole area while your baby/ babies are in the neonatal unit, you can stay in accommodation near to the hospital for £30 a night. Contact Sovereign Housing on 0300 0192359 for further details.

There are two en-suite rooms available for parents. Meals are provided for mums staying in these rooms.

There is a parent’s lounge, with an area for preparing food and drinks. Children are welcome to use the play area in the lounge.


Babies are very vulnerable to infection, particularly premature or otherwise unwell babies, so we ask that you use the hand gel regularly whilst in the unit, when entering and when leaving. If you have a cold or virus, please do not visit. If you have had diarrhoea and/or vomiting, please wait at least 48 hours after symptoms stop as you could still be infectious.


The ward is locked at all times to ensure your baby’s safety. The main entrance door is controlled by the neonatal staff via a door release. Please make sure you don’t let anyone else through when the door is opened for you. The unit uses an electronic tagging alarm system and your baby will have a small tag attached to their ankle whilst staying in the unit.


A small amount of pay and display parking is available outside the St Mary’s Maternity Unit. There is some street parking available in the surrounding roads, but this is limited to two hours. Alternatively, you can park in the hospital multi-storey car park. We know that parking can be very expensive, especially if your baby/babies are in the neonatal unit for a long time. Parking for parents of babies in the neonatal unit can be obtained at a reduced cost. Ask a member of the team for more information.

Matron, Dom Sheehy

Direct line: 01305 254234 or through main switchboard on 01305 251150

We are a small, busy and friendly unit located opposite the Maternity Unit in East Wing. There are approximately 250 babies admitted to us each year. The babies we care for are either premature (from approximately 32 weeks onwards) or unwell. We can also admit babies under 32 weeks gestation to stabilise them prior to transfer to another unit for them to receive further specialised care. Only under exceptional circumstances do we admit babies who have already been home.

We understand what an emotional time this can be for parents and the rest of the family. We try very hard to support the family as much as possible. Parents can be reassured their baby will be well looked after and receive excellent care from us. Where possible, we are determined to keep babies and parents together and we have 4 parent rooms on the unit to enable us to support this.

Parents are welcome to use the communal Parent’s Kitchen to store and make food whilst they stay on the unit. This area also has a dining table, two fridges, a kettle and a microwave for parents to utilise during their stay.


Parents are welcome to visit any time.

Between 9am-7pm siblings and grandparents of the baby are welcome to visit. All other visitors (minimum age 16 years) are welcome between 2pm-6pm.

A maximum of three adult visitors per baby please, one of which must be the baby’s parent or carer.

We advise visitors/siblings not to visit the babies if they are unwell as babies on SCBU are very vulnerable to infection.


Babies are very vulnerable to infection, particularly premature or otherwise unwell babies, so we ask that you use the hand gel regularly whilst in the unit, when entering and when leaving. If you have a cold or virus, please do not visit. If you have had diarrhoea and/or vomiting, please wait at least 48 hours after symptoms stop as you could still be infectious.


The entrance to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) is locked and parents and visitors can only gain access after a member of staff has released the doors. To gain access, please press the intercom button on the left of the doors.


Parents of babies on SCBU are entitled to free parking – please ask a member of staff on the unit for details.

Mental Health Support

What is maternal mental health?

You may have heard the terms “perinatal mental health” and “maternal mental health” used interchangeably. Both refer to mental health during pregnancy and up to two years after giving birth.

Most people are aware of postnatal depression, or PND, but depression can also occur during pregnancy. Other perinatal mental illnesses include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders.

These illnesses can range from mild to severe and may need specialist treatment as soon as possible. Some conditions may have existed before pregnancy and got worse during the perinatal period or shown up for the first time.

Postpartum psychosis should be treated as a medical emergency if suspected.

Our Dorset County Hospital Lead Mental Health Midwife has create easily accessible videos about Managing Stress and anxiety during pregnancy and childbirth.

Further tips for staying well can be found on the Maternal Mental Health Alliance Website.

Information can be found on our Emotional Wellbeing Maternity Matters Page and a list of local and national resources can be found on the Help & Kindness website.

Mental health problems can develop in pregnancy or after childbirth. Some women have a previous mental health condition that can be exacerbated by pregnancy or having a baby. For others, they may experience a mental health problem for the very first time.

Whatever your situation, please remember that health professionals such as GPs, midwives, health visitors and mental health services are available to help you.

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance have a useful page to understand what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing maternal mental health problems.

Further support and information are available via one of the numbers below: • Dorset’s Maternity Advice Line – 0300 369 0388 (24 hrs)

• Connections for Mental Health Crisis Support – 0800 652 0190 (24 hrs)

• Samaritans – 116 123 (24 hrs)

• Mind – 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Mon-Fri)

• NHS choices – 111 (24 hrs)

Medication for Mental Health

Lots of people take medication to support with their mental health and most of them are fine to take in pregnancy. However, up to 90% of women will stop taking medication for an existing mental health problem when they discover they are pregnant, often without talking about this with a health professional.

Stopping medication can have a negative impact for your mental health. Access to good quality advice and support to help you make decisions about your care during pregnancy is important- if you would like to talk about your medication before or during pregnancy please contact your GP, community mental health team, midwife or obstetrician.

Please continue to take any medication that you are on and see your GP or Community Mental Health Nurse for advice before stopping any medication.

Medicines in pregnancy website can help you to make an informed decision about any potential risks and benefits to taking your medication in pregnancy.

Information about what informed consent and shared decision-making means when talking about your care can be found one the NICE website.

Infant Feeding

At first, your baby may be too small or too sick to feed directly from breast or bottle. However, there are many other ways to feed babies receiving neonatal care. You will be fully involved with your baby’s feeding plans, and the team will support your feeding choices as much as possible, ensuring you are well informed every step of the way.

More information about different types of infant feeding can be found on feeding your baby page.