Birth plans for pregnant women in place say South Tyneside health bosses

South Tyneside Hospital.
South Tyneside Hospital.

Trust leaders say all women affected by the maternity closures at South Tyneside District Hospital have now all been given care plans.

The South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said all the mums-to-be have their individual care plans in place following the temporary suspension of births at the South Shields hospital.

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Ken Bremner.

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust Chief Executive Ken Bremner.

In total, 163 women have been contacted who were due to give birth at the hospital up until January 14 2018 with 17 of these ladies having already safely delivered their babies in other neighbouring units.

Initial analysis of where the remaining women shows 35% have chosen Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead to give birth, 33% the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, 31% Sunderland Royal Hospital and 1% of women have chosen a home birth.

There are 46 women who remain undecided about where they would like to give birth and the trust says maternity staff in South Tyneside are continuing to liaise closely with these families to ensure appropriate care plans are put in place.

The Trust said it is keen to reassure women that all local antenatal clinics, fetal scanning and community midwifery services are running in South Tyneside.

Chief Executive Ken Bremner has responded to a number of questions from MP Emma Lewell-Buck and invited her for a face-to-face meeting to discuss this very challenging position for the trust and explain why these urgent safety measures were absolutely necessary and in the very best interests of patients and staff.

Over 40% of the current 11 strong neonatal team in South Tyneside are currently unavailable to staff the unit due to a number of personal circumstances which are out with the trust’s control.

This has left multiple rota gaps throughout December, which the trust has been unable to fill despite extensive efforts. This included a call for help across the region’s entire neonatal network, however, there was simply no extra workforce capacity available to support South Tyneside.

Dr Sean Fenwick, Director of Operations at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said: “I would like to thank our patients, staff and neighbouring maternity units for their understanding and support during this very challenging situation.

"The safety of mothers and babies in our care must always come first and we hope people understand why we had to put a temporary halt to births while we try to solve the staffing challenges we face in neonatal care.

“Our priority is to continue working with our teams to look at all possible solutions as to how we can get back to safely delivering babies at South Tyneside Hospital.

"We are very clear, however, that we will only re-open our Special Care Baby Unit if and when we can clearly demonstrate, to our trust board and our independent regulators, that we are able to consistently meet required safe staffing standards for neonatal care.”

Dr Shahid Wahid, Medical Director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said: “The decision to temporarily suspend births was not taken lightly or in isolation by the trust and there was a strongly agreed and independent clinical view across the region that the safest option for South Tyneside mums and babies was to temporarily pause births at the hospital.

“Given the staffing challenges we face in our Special Care Baby Unit, we were simply not willing to accept the level of clinical risk for babies to be born without any specialist neonatal care readily available in South Tyneside to support resuscitation and stabilisation.

“I really hope people can appreciate that the safety of our mothers and babies is paramount and this continues to be at the heart of current discussions taking place as we work towards potential solutions.”