A 14-week period of public consultation has been launched today (9 December 2013) by NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on new arrangements for maternity care for North Tyneside women.
Between now and 14 March 2014 people are being asked for their views on a proposal that the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside General Hospital should no longer provide a service for deliveries or inpatient care.
This change would happen when the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital opens in Cramlington in 2015.
However, North Tyneside women would continue to receive as much of their antenatal and postnatal care as possible in a range of local settings.
When the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital opens at Cramlington there will be a midwifery-led unit as well as a medical-led unit. Similar arrangements already exist at Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), where there is the Newcastle Birthing Centre (a midwifery-led unit) and a medical-led unit.
This means that from 2015 no matter whether they are classed as low or high risk due to existing health conditions, women will be able to choose to deliver their babies at either Cramlington or Newcastle. Low risk women may also choose to have a home birth.
Currently low risk women living in North Tyneside can choose to deliver at the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside General Hospital, the Birthing Centre at RVI, the medical-led unit at RVI or at the medical-led unit at Wansbeck General Hospital.
If they do choose to deliver at the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside they are transferred by ambulance to RVI if their labour does not progress as expected, or if complications arise.
Dr Ruth Evans, a North Tyneside GP, who is a clinical director of NHS North Tyneside CCG, said: “Since the opening of the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside General Hospital in 2007 we have seen a year on year reduction in the number of women delivering babies there, and this now stands at around four a week.
“More than 90 per cent of local women now deliver their babies outside North Tyneside. More than three-quarters give birth at RVI in either the Newcastle Birthing Centre or the medical-led unit, and the remainder mainly deliver at Wansbeck General Hospital, with a small number at the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside. The reduction in deliveries at the free-standing midwifery-led unit is in line with changing national guidelines which mean that more women are now classed as high risk and therefore must deliver in a medical-led unit where there are obstetricians and other specialists present in case of complications. But it is also in line with what women are telling us about how while they value the care they receive from midwives, it is important to them to have the full maternity team available. Over the summer independent researchers spoke to more than 1,100 North Tyneside mothers and future mothers on our behalf and this was one of the key messages we received from them.”
She continued: “With the opening of the new hospital at Cramlington in 2015, we felt we should take the opportunity now to see if any changes should be made to make sure that women receive the best possible services throughout their pregnancy and following the birth of their baby.”
The arrangements proposed by the CCG would see North Tyneside women receiving as much of their antenatal and postnatal care as close to home as possible but there would be no deliveries at North Tyneside General Hospital and no women transferred there as inpatients to receive care and support after the birth of their baby at other hospitals.
Dr Evans explained: “Since the free-standing midwifery-led unit opened in 2007, there has been a trend of some women delivering at RVI or Wansbeck General Hospital, being discharged and then being admitted for a few days to North Tyneside General Hospital. If women need clinical care following the birth of their baby, we would expect them to stay in the hospital where the baby is delivered and once they are discharged to receive postnatal support from community midwives, for example, with breastfeeding and care of the baby at home or at a local venue, such as a GP surgery or clinic.”
As part of the consultation, the CCG is also considering what steps might be possible for increased working with partner organisations to support women to be healthier when they become pregnant and to stay healthy after the birth of the baby.
Over the next three months GPs and senior managers from the CCG will hold public events and they will be attending existing meetings of the council, Health & Well-being Board, Healthwatch and the community and voluntary sector to provide as many opportunities as possible for people to comment on the proposals. They also hope to speak to women who have recent experience of maternity services and who are the future users of the services at local mother and toddler groups.