Oxford University Hospitals Trust in the UK is planning a £5.5m expansion of a neonatal intensive care unit at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Oxford University Hospitals Trust has applied for planning permission for an extension next to the unit to double the size of its operation.

It is believed that the existing unit would stay open throughout the expansion, which is expected to be finished by early 2013.

Unit director Eleri Adams said, "There is a shortage of intensive care cots in the area and the development will offer excellent newborn intensive care facilities for local families."

According to officials, the expansion of neonatal intensive care unit has become necessary following the birth of about 120 extremely premature babies at the hospital in 2011.

In 2010, the hospital had to turn away 254 seriously-ill mothers and babies due to a lack of room.