Neonatology is a subspecialty of paediatrics providing dedicated and specialist care for sick babies, and their families, around the time of birth and for the first weeks of life.

More than 55,000 babies were admitted to neonatal units in 2018/19, making up more than 9% of live births. Nearly half (47%) of all babies admitted are term infants (born at gestational age 37 weeks or more), with 4% of babies admitted being less than 27 weeks’ gestation – these babies require specialist care in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 

Neonatal Operational Delivery Networks (ODNs) play an essential role in coordinating neonatal care across regions; each network consists of several NICUs, local neonatal units (LNUs) and special care units (SCUs), and a specialist neonatal transport service, supported by a network management team. The aim is to provide equitable access to intensive care services and deliver high-quality care for all patients as close to home as possible.

The 26 GIRFT recommendations (21 in the national report and five on workforce issues) address the need to strengthen existing networks and transport services, improve patient pathways, ensure the best outcomes for premature infants and reduce medication errors.

Dr Eleri Adams​

Neonatology Clinical Lead

Dr Adams has been a consultant neonatologist at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since 2002 and was clinical director of the service for ten years. She has a keen interest in developing networked services, and led the Thames Valley Neonatal Network for 16 years.

She is the vice-chair of the Neonatal Clinical Reference Group for NHS England where she led Quality Improvement and CQUIN development for several years. She is currently the pricing lead for the National Neonatal Transformation Review and also chairs the Neonatal Critical Care Expert Working Group for the National Casemix Office.

Her main research interest is in neonatal pain and she is clinical lead for the paediatric neuro-imaging group in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Oxford.

Useful information

  • Getting It Right First Time and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) worked together on two reports outlining the findings of a snapshot survey of the UK’s neonatal and general paediatric services and workforce. The reports provide a pre-COVID benchmark and give recommendations to government, service planners and other decision makers about how to improve services.

    View and download:

A snapshot of general paediatric services and workforce in the UKRoyal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH)

A snapshot of neonatal services and workforce in the UK –  Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH)

A better experience for babies, their families and the neonatal workforce in focus in GIRFT national report

A new data-driven national report into neonatal services across England outlines measures which can improve services for babies, their families and the workforce who care for them. 

Better access to facilities which allow parents to remain with their baby, optimising respiratory care and improving access to breast milk are some of the clinical recommendations made to support babies and their families.

To support recruitment and retention of the neonatology workforce, GIRFT makes five key recommendations including the provision of better education and training, more quality-enhancing roles (such as nurse educators, bereavement leads and breastfeeding advisers) and to embed AHPs, pharmacy and psychology services into all neonatal units and networks, to help improve outcomes. 

Find out more about GIRFT’s data-led approach and best practice resources:

In April 2022, GIRFT published its national speciality report for Neonatology:

Click above to view the pdf report (via Future NHS)

In April 2022, GIRFT published its national speciality report for Neonatology (Workforce):

Click above to view the pdf report (via Future NHS)

Watch the video about the Neonatology report…

Click above to play the Neonatology national report video