A PLAYGROUP for children who have spent time on a neonatal ward has been given funding to buy specialist equipment.

The James Cook University Hospital's neonatal playgroup, which meets twice a month in Coulby Newham, has been able to buy new sensory toys and special play-mats thanks to the £400 donation by Tees Mutual.

The group is supported by the charity Leo's, which was started by Yarm mum Lottie King, who knows about the isolation families can face, having given birth to premature twins Leo and Oska at North Tees Hospital four years ago.

Sadly, Leo died shortly after he was born, but his name lives on through the charity.

Sarah Brooks, a neonatal community outreach sister at James Cook, said: "Often parents don’t feel they can go to other regular playgroups because they worry about mixing with other children and the risk of infection.

“Babies are going home smaller than ever now and babies who would have been in hospital are with their families. But we ask parents to try not to go anywhere crowded and that can be very isolating.

"When I had my own children, I needed to know I had somewhere to take them during the day so I could get out of the house and be supported by other families in the same situation.

“This is somewhere they can feel comfortable and be supported by like-minded people.”