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Neonatal Network Northern Ireland

Neonatal Network Northern Ireland

The Neonatal Network Northern Ireland leads on the provision of safe, high quality services for specialist neonatal care through good practice and the development of outcome-led services. The engagement and participation of staff and families are central to the work of the Neonatal Network ensuring that their contribution to continuous service improvement is addressed through the network’s work plan.

Established in 2013, the Neonatal Network was set up in response to Department of Health recommendations for the development of a formalised network structure for neonatal services in Northern Ireland. Neonatal services are delivered at seven neonatal units located at Altnagelvin Area Hospital, South West Acute Hospital, Craigavon Area Hospital, Daisy Hill Hospital, Antrim Area Hospital, the Ulster Hospital and the Royal Maternity Hospital.

Network Structure and Accountability Arrangements

The Neonatal Network Board comprises membership from all Health and Social Care Trusts, the Strategic Planning and Performance Group, Public Health Agency and TinyLife. This representation from all units across the province builds collective responsibility and co-operative working which facilitate cohesive planning, coordination and development of Neonatal Services across Northern Ireland.

Network Principles

  • One network
  • Keeping mothers and babies together where possible
  • Care close to home where possible
  • Mutual aid and support
  • Prevent avoidable admissions
  • Understand and reduce variation where possible
  • Right place, right time, right staff

Network Priorities

The Network is committed to maintaining safe, high quality, family focused and sustainable neonatal services in Northern Ireland. The Network continues to be a focus for Trusts, family representatives and service planners to work together towards this aim.

The Network’s key priorities are to utilise its resources and energy to focus on achieving regional consistency in care and driving quality improvement across the region. The Network also supports the development of clinical leadership and provides a forum to share knowledge, good practice, expertise and learning. Achieving consistency and improving care supports the following priorities:

  • A family centred approach is at the core of network priorities in all aspects of service improvement and development.  Seeking parents’ views as to what they need to support them in their role, through the Network’s Regional Discharge Questionnaire, sets part of the Network priorities.
  • Co-production of information and resources within neonatal care to support parents, families and staff in the communication and management of their care, such as guides and leaflets, on the testing for MRSA/Pseudomonas, and when at risk of delivering an extremely premature baby.
  • Develop and implement guidance across the region to improve quality and consistency of care, such as national NICE Guidance on the early onset of Sepsis for infants at risk, standardised regional guidance on prescription of antibiotics in neonatal units.
  • Standardise practice across the region to ensure consistency for families, agreeing processes for required screening, breastfeeding support, and implementing family centred care practices, such as skin-to-skin and parents’ involvement in ward rounds.
  • Supporting a necessary multi-disciplinary team working approach to care through participation in ongoing regional and national reviews and regional workforce modelling.
  • Staff and units working as a network to support capacity and manage demand across NI to strive to keep mothers and babies together and deliver appropriate care close to home where possible.
  • Improving information flows and standardising data collection to support analysis and research for informed decision making purposes.

Network Stakeholders

Our stakeholders include those involved in the design and delivery of care and treatment for premature babies.  The following stakeholders from the network organisations work together in the best interests of the babies and their families:

  • Medical, nursing and AHPs involved in neonatal services
  • Wider services and professionals that interface with neonatal and support service development and improvement (Transport, Obstetric, Paediatric, Maternity, Pharmacy, Microbiology, Community and Ophthalmology Services)
  • Lay representative groups representing parents and families such as TinyLife, SANDS and dedicated user representative groups such as the Erb’s Palsy Group
  • Strategic Planning and Performance Group, Department of Health, Public Health Agency, Health and Social Care Trusts, and Professional Bodies

Family Integrated Care Group

The Family Integrated Care Group (previously Parental Engagement Group) leads the process of engagement and participation with neonatal families as a key strategic network group . The group feeds into and reviews the Neonatal Network plans to build on the partnership between staff and families and to support the continued use of the Regional Discharge Questionnaire service improvement tool which provides a feedback mechanism for staff and families. The group strives to ensure issues that affect families are addressed through the neonatal work plan and relevant network.

The Family integrated Care Group is the Network driver in embedding a co-production approach to delivering quality neonatal care. Members have been pivotal in developing and improving resources for parents, families and carers including the following information leaflets:


Amanda Weightman, Neonatal Network NI Project Manager

Tel: 028 9536 2597