Medical support when you go home

When you leave the neonatal unit with your premature or sick baby, there are a number of healthcare professionals who are there to help you.

When your baby is discharged from the neonatal unit, a number of healthcare professionals will continue to advise you on issues like feeding, growth, vaccinations and development, as well as general care.

It is important to remember that job titles and services may be different from hospital to hospital. You may not come across all the different types of healthcare professional listed here. You might also find that some of these services are known by different names.

The unit staff preparing you for discharge will tell you about the help available to you when you go home with your baby and who to contact for specific issues. Make sure you have a list of useful contact numbers written down or stored on your mobile phone. If you are not sure about the medical support you will get, talk to the unit staff and they will be happy to help.

General practitioner (GP)

A general practitioner (GP) is your family doctor. They are the first person to see if you have any concerns about yours or your baby’s health. You will need to register your baby with a GP before leaving the neonatal unit. You can ask the unit staff helping you prepare to go home about how to do this. You should register your baby with a GP that is local to you. Your GP can help with any health-related problems and can also make referrals to other specialist health professionals.

Health visitor

Every family in the UK is given a health visitor when there is a new baby in the family. Your health visitor may have already visited or been in contact with you while you were still on the neonatal unit. Unless your baby needs to see other healthcare professionals, your health visitor will follow your baby’s development from birth to school age.

They will carry out basic health checks for growth and development, and may arrange vaccinations. They can provide information about your baby’s health, home safety and parenting skills. Health visitors are available for home visits and at baby clinics. Make sure you have a contact number for your health visitor before you leave the unit.

Community neonatal team

Some hospitals have teams of nurses connected to the neonatal unit who will be there to support your transition from the neonatal unit to home. This team is sometimes known by different names in different units, and can have slightly different roles.

Community neonatal teams are sometimes called community outreach teams or outreach nurses. Some teams will work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as dietitians. The community neonatal team will include neonatal nurses, and may also include other support staff.

Your baby is likely to be supported in this way if your baby has ongoing needs, such as home oxygen. If this team is involved in your baby’s care, you are likely to meet with them before you leave the unit and they are likely to visit your home after you leave.

As your baby gets older, you may also be supported by a similar team of nurses known as a community paediatric team or paediatric outreach team.

Practice nurse

You may see a nurse at your GP’s surgery or your local health centre. Practice nurses are often responsible for your baby’s vaccinations.