Organising work in neonatal transfer: Optimising place of care for babies born moderately preterm

Alexis Paton*, Caroline Cupit, Natalie Armstrong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The organisation of neonatal units into geographically‐based networks that offer different levels of care is intended to ensure babies receive the care they need via transfers between different units. In this article, we explore the significant organisational work required in practice to accomplish such transfers. Conducted within a wider study of optimal place of care for babies born between 27 and 31 weeks’ gestation, we draw on ethnographic work exploring the accomplishment of transfers in this complex care context. We undertook fieldwork in six neonatal units across two networks in England, representing 280 hours of observation and formal interviews with 15 health‐care professionals. Drawing on Strauss et al.’s concept of the social organisation of medicine and Allen’s concept of ‘organising work’, we identify three distinct forms of such work central to the successful accomplishment of a neonatal transfer: (1) ‘matchmaking’, to identify a suitable transfer location; (2) ‘transfer articulation’, to successfully effect the planned transfer; and (3) ‘parent engagement’, to support parents through the transfer process. Our findings build on and extend Strauss et al. and Allen’s work by both highlighting the different forms of ‘organising work’ undertaken in this clinical context and the distribution of such work across different professional groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1634-1651
Number of pages18
JournalSociology of health and illness
Issue number8
Early online date26 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Research Funding
Health Services and Delivery Research Programme. Grant Number: 15/70/104
Health Foundation Improvement Science Fellowship
National Institute for Health & Care Research, NIHR Applied Research Collaboration East Midlands, ARC EM


  • decision-making
  • ethnography
  • invisible work
  • neonatal care
  • neonatology
  • organising work


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