Neonatal Unit (NNU)

About us

Babies who need a higher level of medical and nursing support and born after 27 weeks’ gestation are cared for here.

A baby can be admitted to a Neonatal Unit when they:

  • are born early – 1 baby in 13 is born early, and babies born before 34 weeks may need extra help with breathing, feeding and keeping warm
  • are very small and have a low birthweight
  • have an infection
  • have jaundice requiring treatment
  • had a very difficult birth

We have 20 cots on the unit, all of which are designed to make sure your baby receives the best possible care from our highly-trained doctors and nurses. The cots provide different levels of care depending on the needs of the baby. These levels are termed intensive care, high-dependency care, special care and transitional care.

Facilities at the ward

We have five parent rooms on the neonatal unit. We also have a number of camp beds which can be used to enable you to stay with your baby. There is a parent kitchen and shower facilities for parents to use when staying on the unit.

For the safety of all babies the neonatal unit is a secure, monitored area. There is a video call bell to enter the unit to offer security.

To help prevent infection and protect your baby, you will need to remove your outdoor coat and wash your hands upon entering the unit. If you feel unwell, it is important that you stay away from the NNU.

The Southwest Neonatal Advice and Retrieval (SoNAR)

The Southwest Neonatal Advice and Retrieval (SoNAR) service is based in St Michael’s Hospital Bristol with a second hub at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

The team works closely with the Neonatal Intensive Care Units in the South West to ensure that infants requiring specialist care can be safely and promptly transferred to the appropriate hospital.  They also provide transport services to return infants to their local unit once their condition has improved.

South West Neonatal Network

Around 60,000 babies are born across the South West region every year and approximately up to 10% may require care that is provided by the neonatal units across the region.

Our neonatal unit is part of a network called the South West Neonatal Network. You can visit the website for information that will help you understand how and where neonatal care is provided across the region and what this might mean for you and your family.

Animated video made by South West Neonatal Network for families

Ward contact details


Service Manager

Cathryn Rule


Helen Greenhill

Directions to the Neonatal Unit

We are on the 1st floor of the Maternity wing (Princess Alexandra Unit) on the same floor as the Delivery Suite and The Birthing Unit.

Interactive virtual tour of the Neonatal Unit at the Royal Cornwall Hospital

This interactive virtual tour of the Neonatal Unit at the Royal Cornwall Hospital allows viewers to find out more about the facilities, the team, and equipment by using the tag points which give information, guidelines, and tips.

Visiting the Neonatal Unit

Parents and carers have unrestricted access to the neonatal unit 24 hours a day. For all other visitors we advise visiting between 10:30 – 19:30 to avoid ward rounds and handovers. No children other than siblings, under the ages of 16 years old can visit the neonatal unit. We ask that there is only 2 people per bed space at a time to avoid overcrowding and minimise noise levels within the nurseries. Exceptions will be made for patients who are critically ill and or receiving end-of-life care.

If you are a parent and feeling unwell, please enquire with the nurse looking after your baby if it is still safe to come and see your baby. Infections pose a great risk to a premature or sick babies. No other visitors should visit if they are unwell. 

With infectious diseases, such as chickenpox, measles and mumps, a person can have the infection and infect others before they show any symptoms themselves. Therefore, if parents (or other visitors) have come into contact with anyone who has an infectious disease, it is very important that you talk to your baby’s nurse or doctor about the risks this poses to yourself and your baby before you travel to the hospital.

Visiting outside these times can be discussed with the nurse or midwife in charge. See our Visiting Policy.

Changing levels of cases of COVID-19 in Cornwall means that we must review and restrict visiting at times. We know how hard this is for patients and relatives, and exceptional circumstances for visiting will be considered when necessary.

Contact wards direct for details of their visiting times.

All patients are now able to have visits from 2 people at a time. Exceptions will be made for patients who are receiving end-of-life care.

You should not visit if you have any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19.

Visiting during an infectious outbreak

During an infectious outbreak, visiting is not permitted. This includes visiting a bay that is closed with 1 or more infectious persons. The exceptions to this rule are:

  • a patient is near to or at the end of life*
  • there are exceptional circumstances (as decided by the clinical team)
  • the visitor is a carer (any area) or parent/guardian (paediatrics only)

Regular visiting rules apply to most infections, the ward team can contact the infection control team for advice if they are unsure.

Visiting when there is norovirus or a respiratory virus in a ward

There is an exception for norovirus and respiratory viruses.


No visiting is permitted. This includes when the patient is isolated. The exceptions to this rule are.

  • a patient is near to or at the end of life*
  • there are exceptional circumstances (as decided by the clinical team)
  • the visitor is a carer or parent/guardian (paediatrics only)

Respiratory viruses

Patients can have 2 named visitors, there is no time limit to the visit. The exceptions to this rule are.

  • a patient is near to or at the end of life*
  • there are exceptional circumstances (as decided by the clinical team)
  • the visitor is a carer or parent/guardian (paediatrics only)

If you are in a clinically extremely vulnerable group, we recommend you do not visit until the person no longer requires isolation.

If you (the visitor) develop symptoms of an infectious illness (diarrhoea, vomiting). You must postpone your visit until you have been free of symptoms for 72 hours. If you have a respiratory virus, read the latest Covid-19 guidance.

Visitors are expected to follow local personal protective equipment (PPE) rules. Advice and supplies will be provided by the clinical area. If a visitor refuses to wear PPE, the visit will not take place and you will be asked to leave. If visiting a patient with a respiratory virus, visiting to any other patient will not be permitted.

* Being near to or at the end of life does not mean that a patient has formally progressed to the end-of-life care plan or the blue book. This is a decision made by the clinical team.

Top tips when visiting

  • visitors need to introduce themselves and advise who they are visiting.
  • they will also be required to wash their hands and may need to wear appropriate PPE during the visit.
  • feel free to help out at mealtimes
  • do not disturb clinical staff during medicine rounds
  • when asked to leave a bay or room, please respect our request
  • when you leave the ward following your visit, you will need to remove any PPE, dispose of it properly, and wash your hands

Please see the Visiting guidance page for further general information.

Related information

What patients can expect from us

Our pledge is to let our patients know what they are in hospital for, what is needed before we can send them home, a timeframe for their discharge and an opportunity for them to be involved in shared decision-making about their treatment and care.

Contacting the ward for updates on your loved one

The ward is a busy place and our priority is patient care; the best time to call is after 11 am, once the doctors have completed their rounds. Upon admission to our ward we will establish if our patients are able to make contact with loved ones.

We suggest that one person is nominated to call the ward for updates and to act as the patient’s single point of contact. Our patients with capacity and the ability to contact loved ones themselves, are best placed to provide an update. Those who would prefer relatives to be updated by staff will have this documented and we will endeavour to contact daily to provide an update. 


The Trust’s car parks are run by external providers. Free parking is available for blue badge holders, frequent attenders and parents of sick children staying overnight. Please ask the car park attendants for further details. Concessionary tickets care available for long term patients and visitors. You will need to ask the ward for an application form for a concessionary ticket.

Ward moves

Our patients may not always be able to be treated within the specialist ward associated with their medical or surgical issue. This means that they may be transferred to different wards during a single inpatient stay, and we will always endeavour to update the patient’s nominated contact of this.

Using ward iPads

On most wards iPads are available for patients to contact family and friends via FaceTime and Skype. Ward staff can arrange this for you and they will assist in setting up this call.

Stay connected

Stay Connected is an initiative put in place to help our inpatients and their families keep in contact with each other, by sending messages, photos or drawings to the Patient and Family Experience Team which is then sent to the ward; this service is available Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.


Most wards have access to Wi-Fi on NHSWi-Fi. Please contact the ward to confirm.

Laptops and mobiles are allowed (if users are respectful of other patients – it’s a good idea to bring headphones and label devices clearly). We ask that you ensure any chargers that you may bring for devices are in a good working condition, so as not to cause a fire.


When our patients are assessed as medically fit for discharge by a Consultant, we will update the nominated contact or we will ask the patient to do this if they are able. We may ask our patients to wait in the discharge lounge whilst final arrangements are made.

The Discharge Lounge is in the Tower Block on the ground floor. Please see the Discharge Lounge page for directions and further information.

Patients are discharged with a discharge summary and a copy will also be sent electronically to their GP to outline any ongoing care needs or medication.

Please be aware that there may be a few hours wait for your medication to take home.

Carer Passport

A Carer is anyone, including children and adults, who looks after and cares for a friend or family member who (due to illness, frailty, disability, a mental health condition, or an addiction) cannot manage without their support. The care they give is unpaid. The Trust recognises carers as expert partners in care, and the important role that carers have in continuing patient care. If you are a carer you may wish to request a Carer Passport. This will identify you as a carer to us, and we can signpost you to the Cornwall Carers Service for advice and assessments.

Patient Experience

We are passionate about patient experience and we want every one of our patients, and their relatives, to receive the best possible service when being treated at, or visiting, our hospitals. We take all feedback seriously and will take action where appropriate. Please see the Patient Experience section for further details.

Page last reviewed: 5 January 2024

Alert: Infected Blood Products Inquiry

If you are concerned following news coverage of the Infected Blood Products Inquiry, you can find help and support on the NHS website: Infected blood support (

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