40 Years of Neonatology in Lothian


Since 1968, the Neonatal Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh has treated thousands of sick and premature babies from across Lothian.
To mark the anniversary, NHS Lothian will host a series of talks this morning (Friday), on the history of the unit.
Professor John Forfar and Mary Taylor, who founded the unit, will each give talks, alongside Professor Forrester Cockburn, who was one of the first consultants to work in the unit.
The talks will be chaired by Professor James Barbour, Chief Executive of NHS Lothian.
The department in Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion at the old Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh on Lauriston Place, became the first dedicated Neonatal unit in Lothian when it opened in January 1968.
In 2002, the specialist unit moved to the new Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France, and became part of the Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health.
When the unit was founded in 1968, it employed one specialist consultant, and only had basic incubator equipment. It now treats around 600-700 babies each year and employs seven neonatologists to care for the babies.
Advances in technology mean that more sophisticated incubator units, ventilators, vital signs monitors and blood saturation monitors are used to provide critical care to newborn pre-term babies.
When the unit was first set up, basic checks, such as taking a baby’s pulse, were done manually by a nurse or doctor.
Now, thanks to an innovative computer monitoring system called BADGER, doctors have instant access to details such as a baby’s heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, temperature, and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
The Neonatal unit also has an award winning website, called BabyLink, which was created specially for parents of babies on the ward.
Parents are given secure log in details to access information about the Neonatal unit and the treatment and care their babies are receiving.
An online baby diary can also be created from letters written by nursing staff and by photographs uploaded by the parents.
Dr Ian Laing, Consultant Neonatologist in the Neonatal Unit, said:
“I am very privileged to be part of the team looking after these fragile babies. I admire the courage of the parents who join us in providing the care needed. After many weeks of hard work, seeing a mother taking her baby home is the most rewarding experience.
“It is always a pleasure when the families return to visit us in the Unit, and we have the joy of seeing the babies grow into happy children”.
Professor James Barbour, Chief Executive of NHS Lothian, said:


“We are delighted to be celebrating 40 years of neonatology in Lothian. The Special Care Baby Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh has treated thousands of babies over the years, and will continue to do so for many more.
“The provision of such vital care would not have been possible without the hard work of the staff in the unit since it opened 40 years ago, and these efforts have seen a dramatic transformation in skills and techniques since then.”