Bristol's Southmead neo-natal intensive care unit to move

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Southmead Hospital
Image caption,
The most seriously ill babies will be sent to St Michael's rather than Southmead

Southmead Hospital will no longer care for the most seriously ill babies under new plans from health officials.

Bristol currently has two neo-natal intensive care units - four miles apart - at St Michael's and Southmead.

A two-year review into maternity care recommends the St Michael's unit in the city centre should stay.

The report said it would enhance care levels, as some babies born at Southmead end up needing to be transferred to St Michael's anyway.

Southmead sees about 770 babies delivered there every year, and about 750 at St Michael's.

Each unit has three levels of care for babies - for those born after 32 weeks who need short-term care, for those born after 27 weeks who need need short-term intensive care and for the very smallest and sickest who need specialist intensive treatment.

'Surgical problems'

These most seriously ill infants, often weighing less than a kilo, need neonatal intensive care - or NICU - often with very complex medical conditions.

Under the plans Southmead will no longer offer this most complex level of care - instead the NICU unit at St Michael's will be expanded.

Dr Paul Mannix from North Bristol NHS Trust said a proportion of babies currently born at Southmead "also develop surgical problems, and the surgeons are based at St Michael's".

"[These babies] need to be placed in an ambulance to be taken to St Michael's for the surgery.

"These units are so close, why don't we make them function as as single unit and aim to have the babies who are most likely to need extra care have their delivery at that place, so you circumvent the need for further transfer?"

Dr Mannix said the trust would look at providing more parking and extra accommodation for parents at St Michael's as part of the plans.

The new system is due to begin operating in late 2021.

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