MORE premature and sick babies in Bradford needing neo-natal care will be able to stay closer to home now that builders have finished work on a new £2m unit.

The extension at Bradford Royal Infirmary means its neo-natal unit now has capacity for 31 instead of 27 babies needing intensive, high-dependency and special care in their first days and weeks of life.

The unit is recruiting more nursing staff and as well as the extra cot spaces, there is a new waiting area for families, a play area for siblings, a counselling suite and an expressing room for woman wanting to give breast milk.

The work has taken a year to complete and has included ideas from not just doctors and nurses but also from parents who have been heavily involved in the re-design.

The unit was built outwards and has turned some of the non-clinical spaces such as consultants offices and a nurses changing room in to treatment spaces now.

"It was all valuable space that we needed so we moved it out - we have built new areas onto the sidesBabies delivered in other hospitals are often transferred to the unit for the highest levels of intensive care but Bradford is regularly full and sometimes has had to transfer its own babies for care, said Clinical lead for neonatology, Dr Sunita Seal.

"It's excellent news for families. The old unit did not have the capacity we needed so quite often babies had to be moved out to other hospitals miles and miles away which is not good for families - they need to be close to home so this is excellent news now that we have the extra space, facilities and staff."

There will be an official opening soon said Dr Seal but in the meantime staff are wasting no time settling in to their new environment, she added.

"It's been a difficult year with challenges because we couldn't close the unit down. The builders have worked well to work with us in phases so we have made room for each other and all got on with our jobs while making sure the babies and families got all the care they needed," she said.