Special Care Baby Unit

Welcome and introduction 

SCBU staff outside of special care baby unit
SCBU staff outside of special care baby unit

Congratulations on the birth of your baby and welcome to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.  

Your baby may have been admitted to the unit for a variety of reasons, for example they may have been born too early, be very small or be unwell for another reason. 

All the staff are here to help you through your Special Care Journey. We will support you with the care of your baby and encourage you to be involved as much as possible.

This leaflet contains useful information about the unit and hopes to answer some frequently asked questions.  

The service we offer 

The Neonatal Service is provided in SCBU which has eight cot spaces. This service also has specialist facilities for short-term ventilation (helping to breathe) and a type of ventilation called ‘nasal CPAP’. Babies who require intensive care or surgical care would be transferred to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit. 

Who we are

We are a team of paediatric doctors, advanced neonatal nurse practitioners, neonatal nurses and support staff based within the Special Care Baby Unit. Our team of specially trained professionals are here to care for you and your baby and answer any questions you may have. We encourage you to spend as much time as possible with your baby and will support you in attending to your baby’s needs. 

What we do

  • Provide care for premature and unwell new born babies
  • Provide support to midwives and parents in caring for babies with extra needs on the postnatal ward, to help prevent mothers and babies being separated unnecessarily
  • A neonatal nurse specialist will attend deliveries, if required
  • Help to make ventilated babies stable before being transferred to the regional unit
  • Support parents in caring for their premature/unwell baby
  • Provide a supportive and nurturing environment for babies who have complex needs
  • Provide a room for parents and their baby to share when preparing to be discharged
  • Provide ‘parentcraft’ to help parents to get ready for discharge home with their baby
  • Encourage parents and siblings to spend time with their new baby on the Special Care Baby Unit to build a close and loving relationship

How you can be involved in the care of your baby 

As soon as your baby is well enough, it is ideal if you start to look after their daily needs, just like you would at home. This helps you and your baby get to know each other and it builds your confidence for when your baby is ready for home.

You may like to have regular skin to skin contact with your baby (kangaroo care) as this has many physical and emotional benefits for your baby and yourself. It also helps you feel closer to your baby and more confident about caring for them. Kangaroo care is something both parents can do and is a really good way to bond with your baby.

You are welcome to provide clothes and blankets for your baby, however the hospital can take no responsibility for their loss. There is a large selection available to use on SCBU should you wish to do so. Nappies will be provided whilst your baby is in the Special Care Baby Unit

Feeding your baby 

Many babies admitted to SCBU are too immature or unwell to feed from the breast or bottle, or to take milk at all. 

Your baby may need to be fed through a tube until they are able to take feeds. 

Use of breast milk has long-term benefits for your baby, lasting right into adulthood. Breastfeeding and making breast milk also has health benefits for you. For unwell and preterm babies the importance of breastmilk cannot be underestimated – supporting growth, protecting from infection and much more.

If you choose to provide your baby with breast milk, you are advised to express your breast milk as soon as possible after birth in order establish your baby’s milk supply. Staff will support you and help you with the practicalities of this. Staff can advise on the storage of your milk if your baby is unable to feed at this time.

If you do not wish to or are unable to breast feed, staff will advise you on what kind of formula to use, how to prepare feeds and how to sterilise equipment.  

Food for families

Quenellies restaurant situated in the main building of the hospital serves hot and cold food  (Windy Nook entrance), opening times 8:30 am to 16:00 Monday- Friday (closed weekends). Vouchers are available for parents on SCBU that entitles them to discounted rates at Quenellies.                                                                                                               

There is a drinks vending machine in the maternity reception.

The Emergency Care Centre has a Costa coffee shop, a Subway sandwich shop, and a general store called Amigos, opening times are Mon to Fri 7.30am to 8pm and weekends 8am to 6pm.

We would kindly ask that no hot drinks or food are consumed in the clinical rooms with the babies.

There is a fridge for parents to use to store food and drink brought in from home. This must be labelled with your name and the date. Any expired food will be discarded.  Food and hot drinks must be consumed in the family sitting room.


We encourage you to visit your baby as soon as you are able following admission to SCBU. Parents and siblings are welcome to visit at any time. 

For security reasons, the door into the unit is locked and is accessed by ringing the doorbell. Maternity entrance is also locked between 8pm and 8.30am.  Please be patient for staff answering the door as they may be busy caring for a baby.

All other family members over 16 years of age (no children other than siblings) are welcome but for security reasons, would only be allowed to visit in the presence of a parent. 

We advise only two visitors to a cot at one time, to reduce the noise for the babies and to make sure there is emergency access for the staff at all times. 

We have a family waiting area for your use.

Handwashing and infection control

Babies in the nursery are more vulnerable to infection, so it is important to help us protect them:

  • Please leave outdoor coats on the pegs provided outside the nurseries.
  • Please wash your hands on entering and leaving the nursery and again before touching the baby.
  • If you or your visitors are feeling unwell please refrain from visiting and seek advice from staff.
  • Children under the age of 16 (other than brothers and sisters of the baby) will not be admitted as they increase the infection risk to your baby.

Cameras and phones

Please refrain from making or receiving phone calls in the nursery (you may use it in the family room). Phones should be on silent mode and not used when holding your baby. Please be aware that phones can have a lot of bacteria on them and put your baby at risk of infection.  You should thoroughly wash your hands after handling it and before touching your baby.

You will be given a Polaroid photograph of your baby shortly after birth. Please feel free to take your own photos of your baby whilst visiting. You are welcome to use video recording on the unit as long as you restrict filming to your own baby and do not record sound. This is to prevent breaches in confidentiality.


There is a car parking permit scheme available for parents/carers which allows for free parking for the duration of your baby’s stay. Please speak to the nurse looking after your baby to organise this.

Public Transport 

For parents using public transport and in the receipt of state benefits, you can claim back travel costs from the Cashiers office. Bus timetables are also available from the Cashiers office. 


When your baby is ready for home, we would advise you to spend a couple of days and nights in our parent and baby room where you can care for them full time, knowing support is not far away should you need it.  Meals will be provided from the postnatal ward during your stay. No baby will be discharged until all the support needed at home is in place (if required) and you are confident and happy.

Financial help

You can find information about family finances e.g. child benefit, child tax credit etc. from the Bliss helpline 0500 618140, or on their website. 

Support Network

Staff can arrange for a hospital chaplain to call and see you at any time day or night, to give you help and support.  If you wish to see your own priest or religious leader, they will be most welcome.  You may wish to have your baby blessed or baptised and staff will be happy to help arrange this for you.  

If you wish to have some quiet thoughtful time to yourself, there is a spiritual room inside the chapel on the main hospital corridor.

The Bliss helpline is a UK wide confidential telephone service that offers a listening ear, emotional support and information for families whose baby is in or has been in neonatal care 0500 618 140.

Information regarding feeding support networks in your local area is available. Please ask staff to provide you with relevant contact details.

Further information 

You can download the Northern Neonatal Network app for unit information on your phone. Search NNN on the app store.

Information can also be found on our trust website.

Contact details

Special Care Baby Unit
Maternity Unit QEH,
Queen Elizabeth Avenue,
Sheriff Hill,

Data Protection

Any personal information is kept confidential. There may be occasions where your information needs to be shared with other care professionals to ensure you receive the best care possible.

In order to assist us to improve the services available, your information may be used for clinical audit, research, teaching and anonymised for National NHS Reviews and Statistics.  

Further information is available via Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust website or by contacting the Data Protection Officer by telephone on 0191 445 8418 or by email [email protected].

This leaflet can be made available in other languages and formats upon request