For neonatal manager Kate Rivett and her team, Christmas is no different to any other day.

The sick and premature babies they care for at Hinchingbrooke Hospital's Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) need all the attention the nurses can give them - whatever the time of year.

And it's not just the babies that require care and compassion.

"We nurse families, we don't just nurse babies," said Kate, 40, who has worked for Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust (CCS), which runs the SCBU, for five years.

"We cannot treat a baby in isolation because they are an intrinsic part of the family unit."

A neonatal nurse of 17 years, Kate and her team care for about 200 babies a year at the Huntingdon hospital's unit, mostly premature babies needing help with breathing and feeding or babies who have infections or serious conditions.

Babies come to SCBU from Addenbrooke's and further afield.

Kate said: "If a baby is born with complications, they come to us for special care when they no longer need critical care. They could spend three months or more with us."

Despite their best efforts the outcome is not always a happy one.

Kate said: "It is tough at times, especially when you know that the baby is not going to survive.

"We feel for the baby, and the family because so many of their dreams will not be fulfilled. They need a lot of support, even the grandparents who are grieving for the baby and also for their own child because there is nothing they can do to ease their pain.

"All we can do is ensure the baby's death is pain free and dignified. And if we can make some happy memories for the family, it will last them a lifetime.

"To be involved with families at a time when it's very traumatic and very raw is a privilege."

The nursing care includes helping parents bond with their baby and making sure they are confident about continuing the care at home.

With babies arriving all year round, Christmas is just as busy a time as any. Decorations have been put up and you can hear carols playing at the nurses' station.

"We encourage families to bring cards and gifts for their baby. Babies get a stocking from Santa on Christmas Eve. We take pictures so parents have a photo of their child's first Christmas," said Kate.

She admits it's a tough job at times, but also concedes there is no other job she would rather do.

"We know just how much it means to the families who spend time here with their babies."

That is reflected in the hundreds of cards they get - always with photos showing the child's progress.

Kate said: "It is wonderful to see how well our patients are doing."

Children's charity Dreamdrops provides the extras at SCBU that public funds cannot afford. The Hunts Post has teamed up with the charity for a Christmas appeal. To donate visit www.justgiving.com/dreamdrops or send cheques made payable to Huntingdonshire Children's Charity, Dreamdrops administrator, Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, Unit 3, Meadow Lane, St Ives PE27 4LG.