Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care

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In 2021 we celebrated the tenth year of our innovative Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Bath.

The Unit admitted its first sick and premature babies on 23 July 2011.  Since then it has cared for over 5,000 babies in the beneficial healing space for babies and greatly reduces stress levels for parents.  It is one of only six such units in England and Wales to have been awarded UNICEF’s Baby Friendly accreditation.

Dr Bernie Marden, Executive Medical Director at the RUH and a consultant neonatologist and lead paediatrician who worked on the NICU project said: “We needed to have a unit that really put the families at the centre of the care that we’re delivering. So it needed to be a welcoming space, somewhere that families would generally feel they wanted to spend their time, to be involved in the care of their babies. But it also needed to be the sort of space where our staff would work effectively and safely to deliver the care that ultimately helps to get these children home.”

A place to call home

The result was a contemporary building filled by controllable natural light, with treatment rooms arranged around a clockwise route to illustrate the patient’s journey, beginning with intensive care units and ending with recovering patient rooms. Feedback from parents shows that progress along this route is important psychologically, confirming the gradual decreasing intensity of care to journey’s end – finally going home.

The unit has 21 cots, four double ensuite bedrooms for families, a play area for brothers and sisters, and a private enclosed garden for peace and quiet.

If it was for these superheroes, our boys simply wouldn’t be here today

Taya Bassett, from Bath who was a NICU baby herself in the old RUH unit, is grateful for the care her twins Harvey and Charlie received after they were born prematurely.

She said: “We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy journey, but having the support of all the staff really made it a lot easier. I know from my own experience how incredibly grateful we are to everyone in NICU, because we wouldn’t have coped and got though it as well as we did without them.”

The new NICU replaced smaller, cramped facilities to provide a dramatically different and improved environment. It cost more than £6m and was half funded by the NHS and by public donations, through our charity’s Space to Grow campaign. The major donor for the project was the James Dyson Foundation, which contributed £500,000. The construction marked the start of a major programme of transformation across the RUH site, which will culminate this next Autumn with the opening of the Dyson Cancer Centre.

A space to grow 

Senior Sister Angie Walker said: “The main objective of the design of the new unit was to be a space to grow. I have had the privilege of working as a Senior Sister on both the old and new unit, as well as other neonatal units around the country, and I can honestly say that this unit has exceeded all my expectations. The Dyson Centre enables everyone involved throughout the hospital and beyond to come together and provide family centred care to help achieve the most amazing outcomes on a daily basis for babies and parents alike.”

Improved outcomes for babies and families at the RUH

The centre has a clockwise layout, leading from intensive care to special care and finally home, creating a motivating sense of progress. The unit is a calm, domestic care environment within a clinical setting. Large windows give natural light throughout, ensuring vital circadian rhythm development for babies, boosting their immune systems, mood and cognitive functions.

Improved outcomes for babies and families at the RUH

Revolutionary research carried out when the unit opened found that babies were more likely to go home breastfeeding and sleeping longer when compared to the old unit. Since opening, the unit has won multiple awards. It’s been recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects, Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, International Academy for Health & Design and Better Healthcare Building awards, and has a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certificate.
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The brand new Neonatal Care Centre is an inspiration for the next generation of healthcare buildings, providing a benchmark in therapeutic environments which benefits parents, staff and patients.