Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

This unit is for critically ill newborn babies and infants who need the highest level of nursing and medical care. Most of the babies cared for on this ward will need surgery for various problems.

Other babies come to NICU with complex breathing problems or feeding problems.

Around 500 babies a year from across the UK are treated on NICU.


The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has 10 cots in an open plan area. It is located on Level 4 of the Variety Club Building (VCB).

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Level 4, Variety Club Building
Great Ormond Street Hospital Great Ormond Street



NICU Nurses’ station telephone number: 020 7829 8812

Staff on the ward

The multidisciplinary team on NICU is led by a team of eight consultants, intensive nurses, ventilator technicians, physiotherapists, dieticians, pharmacists and housekeepers. There is a support network for families including family liaison nurses, a play specialist, a psychologist, and interpreters.
Other key members of staff you may meet on the ward include:

  • Annette Rathwell, Lead Nurse
  • Heather Waddington, Esther Rose and Petra Shroff, NICU Family Liaison Sisters
  • Kirsty Abbas, Psychologist
  • Cindy Mao, Ward Administrator

Conditions we treat

The special areas of expertise include:

  • Neonates needing surgery for necrotising enterocolitis, bowel obstruction, oesophageal atresia, abdominal wall defects, congenital diaphragmatic hernia and other congenital anomalies.
  • Neonates with other complex medical and surgical problems such as laryngeal clefts, sacrococcygeal teratomas.


You can learn more about our clinical specialty by visiting:

Ward Information

Having a child admitted to NICU is very often a shock for parents, and can be bewildering as everything is unfamiliar.

Please remember that everybody on the unit is here to help you and your child, and you should feel free to ask any questions or query anything you don’t understand or are uncomfortable with.

For security reasons, the doors to NICU are kept locked. Please ring the bell and a member of staff will let you in as quickly as possible.

We encourage parents to visit and stay as long as possible, and you are welcome to visit your child at any time, day or night.

The only time when we ask parents not to visit the ward is between 8.30am and 9.30am each morning when the consultant ward round takes place. This is because the unit is largely open plan and we have a responsibility to preserve the confidentiality of all the patients on the unit.

We would also request:

  • Please have only three visitors at a time, one of whom must be a parent.
  • If your child’s brothers and sisters visit, please be there to supervise them.

NICU is a warm environment so it’s best for you and your visitors to wear light clothes on the unit.

Regulations on the ward

The following are not allowed on NICU:

  • Flowers – water in the vase can develop a bacterium that can cause infection in children.
  • Balloons of any kind as they interfere with medical equipment.
  • Hot drinks or food of any kind.

Everything you bring in for your child should be washable to reduce the risk of infection. This includes soft toys.

If any of your visitors have been in contact with coughs, colds, tummy bugs, or infectious diseases like chicken pox or measles, we would prefer them to wait until they are better before visiting.

No visitor will be allowed in to the ward if they have chicken pox.


For parents

When your child is in intensive care we are able to offer overnight accommodation for two parents or carers. This is free and all bed linen is provided, but you will need your own soap, towels and other supplies.

We advise that, where possible, other children are left with relatives or friends at home.

If this is not an option, the hospital has two houses as part of the Sick Children’s Trust which have free accommodation subject to availability. A returnable deposit of £10 is needed for all accommodation keys.

The Parent Support Group is for any parent or carer of a child admitted to PICU/NICU. The group meets twice a year and advises NICU staff on what the unit is doing well, or how we might improve our present practice.The group also provides a parent-to-parent telephone support network, offering support to other affected by an admission to PICU/NICU. For details, ask the Family Liaison Sisters.

Food on the ward

Hospital canteen
Unfortunately there are currently no facilities for parents to make hot drinks or prepare food near the ward, but we hope to be able to provide these soon.

In the meantime parents can buy food and drink in the various catering facilities in the hospital and local area. There is also the hospital shop, which sells refreshments and gifts.

Within a 10-minute walk of the hospital there is a shopping centre and a supermarket.


If you are breastfeeding, and need to express milk, there is a breastfeeding room in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. A breast pump can be supplied for use in hospital accommodation.

You are also entitled to £5 of breastfeeding vouchers per day, which can be used in hospital catering facilities. There is a neonatal nurse advisor available during the week who you can discuss any of these issues with.

A midwifery clinic is held in Weston House on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 2pm and 3.30 pm for mothers who have recently had babies (within the last 28 days).

Please take your midwifery notes with you when you attend.

Other information

There is a small sitting room for parents, where you can rest away from the ward. This contains a play area for siblings.

You can use your mobile phone inside the hospital but only within designated mobile friendly zones. You can keep your mobile switched on vibrate whilst in NICU.

Should you wish to make outgoing calls, you are requested to use your mobile phone off the unit or you can buy telephone cards in the hospital shop.

Wi-Fi access is available. Please request via ward administrator.

Spiritual leaders of various denominations are available to offer spiritual and emotional support on NICU.

For children

NICU has a play specialist who can provide age appropriate play opportunities and can also provide games and puzzles for siblings.

Siblings can also use the Centre on the ground floor of the Southwood Building which has an outdoor area and a dedicated room (The Den) for teenagers.