Baby transfers

Hopefully your local hospital will be able to care for your baby throughout the duration of his or her stay. However, in the UK, neonatal care is provided at four different levels and your baby may need to be transferred to another unit that has a level of care that is most appropriate to his or her needs at the time.

Transferring your baby to another unit can be very stressful, and you will probably have questions about how the transfer will be done. This section of the website aims to provide you with general information, as guidelines differ from region to region.

If your baby is transferred to a different unit, you can be confident that he or she will be safe during the transfer, and that all units will provide excellent care. Once your baby is stable, and if a cot is available, every effort will be made to transfer your baby back to your local hospital.

What is an in utero transfer?

If you are pregnant and experience a complication, you will probably first go to your local hospital.

Your local unit will transfer you to another unit if:

  • the mother, fetus or neonate requires enhanced care
  • the neonatal unit is closed
  • no neonatal cot of the appropriate level of care is available
  • there is a request from the neonatal team or delivery suite regarding staffing or workload ratio.

Before the transfer, obstetric and neonatal staff will provide counselling to the mother. Mothers are required to give formal consent to being transferred.

The referring unit is responsible for safe, efficient and rapid transfer. The mother will be transferred by ambulance and will be accompanied by an experienced midwife. If, during the transfer, delivery appears imminent, the ambulance will take the mother to the nearest hospital with maternity facilities.

The receiving unit should clarify any ongoing care plans as soon as is practical after the mother has been transferred. The mother will then become a patient at the new unit until she has either been discharged, or transferred back to her local unit.

How will my baby be transferred?

Your baby will be transferred by ambulance in a specialised incubator that will maintain their temperature and oxygen levels. This allows for any required medicine to be administered during the transfer.

The transfer is led by a dedicated transfer team that has been specially trained to transport babies from one neonatal unit to another when necessary. They care for the baby throughout the journey and ensure the smooth running of the transport.

Your baby will be assessed in the current unit, and will only be referred to the transfer team when s/he is fully stable. Once your baby arrives at the new hospital, the transfer team will do an official handover of information. Handover of information will include the notes and information about care and medication given to date.