Birthing unit could get new lease of life

PUBLISHED: 12:11 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 May 2010

A BIRTHING unit at Hemel Hempstead Hospital which was used by St Albans mothers-to-be could be reopened. The future of the standalone midwife-led birth centre which has been closed since January 2006 because of staffing problems is being reconsidered as p

A BIRTHING unit at Hemel Hempstead Hospital which was used by St Albans mothers-to-be could be reopened.

The future of the standalone midwife-led birth centre which has been closed since January 2006 because of staffing problems is being reconsidered as part of a review of maternity care being carried out by Herts primary care trusts.

The review will look at the unit, which was very popular with local mothers-to-be, to see if it could be reopened and in what format. It will also consider what the implications of its reopening would be on Watford General, the main acute hospital in West Herts.

The review of maternity and midwifery services has been set up to explore how services can best be provided outside of major hospitals when only Watford General and Lister in Stevenage provide a full range of services in the county.

Acute services in West Herts transfer to Watford later this year and women's inpatient services in East and North Herts transfer from the QEII in Welwyn Garden City to the Lister in 2010

In the long-term, obstetric-led deliveries will continue to be provided at Watford and the Lister and both of them will have midwife-led birthing units located on the same site instead of just Watford as things stand now.

The aim of the review, which will culminate in a final report in September, is to explore what parts of maternity care could be provided outside hospital and closer to people's homes.

It will also look at what ante and post-natal services should be provided in local general hospitals and what in the community, what gynaecological services should be provided at local general hospitals and what the NHS should do to ensure mothers-to-be have a home birth if they wish to.

Anne Walker, chief executive of Herts PCTs, said their priority was to ensure the NHS provided care for the majority of mothers who would have a normal birth and for those who might need specialist support from consultants at an acute site.

She added: "This review will give us a detailed view of how we should move forward with maternity provision outside hospital.

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