MEMORIES came flooding back for the Mayor of Taunton when she visited a hospital unit for premature and poorly babies.

Cllr Fran Smith was returning to the Somerset Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the first time in 34 years.

The last time she was at the facility at Musgrove Park Hospital was when she gave birth nine weeks prematurely to her daughter, Federica Smith-Roberts, nowadays the leader of Somerset West and Taunton Council.

Cllr Smith will be fundraising for her official charity SNICU along with council chairman Cllr Hazel Prior-Sankey throughout the coming year.

They made the announcement during a visit to the unit, which cares for more than 400 premature and poorly babies a year.

Cllr Smith, who was born at Musgrove herself, said: "I haven’t been back for 34 years since my daughter Federica was here. It has brought back memories.

"I think it is important for the Mayor to raise the profile of things happening in Taunton and Musgrove is totally pivotal to the area, whether it is family members visiting or being born here.

"Coming together with Hazel as chairman, we are hoping to make a difference."

The two were shown around the 18-cot unit and the facilities available for families when their babies are cared for there.

They saw a state-of-the-art Giraffe incubator and hope to raise funds towards a new one.

Cllr Prior-Sankey said: "I’m a Taunton girl and know how important SNICU is for Taunton and Somerset people.

"It is important that we give our children the best start in life and is great that we are able to work together to support the unit."

Neonatal unit manager, Sue Fulker, said: "It is great that Cllr Smith and Cllr Prior-Sankey have chosen SNICU as their charity for the year and we are very grateful for their support.

"Charitable donations enable us to go a step further in terms of the equipment we can buy.

"If we have another one of these Giraffe incubators the top rises up and surgical procedures can be carried out on the neonatal unit.

"They have specialist lights and specialist heating which makes these procedures more successful and makes it a lot easier for the doctors.

"We have got two at the moment but would benefit from more. These incubators make such a big difference to everybody, doctors, nurses and parents."

Love Musgrove head of fundraising Zoe Steer said: "We are very grateful to Cllrs Smith and Prior-Sankey for pledging their support to Love Musgrove and the SNICU and look forward to seeing their progress over the year."