'Why play Russian roulette with lives?': How mums reacted to changes to South Tyneside's maternity services

Plans to make South Tyneside's maternity unit midwifery-led have created a storm of protest among mums and mums-to-be.

By Gary Welford
Friday, 24th May 2019, 3:03 pm
Health chiefs this week confirmed big changes to maternity services in South Tyneside.
Health chiefs this week confirmed big changes to maternity services in South Tyneside.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust this week announced a new model of maternity care following an extensive public consultation carried out in 2017.

It will come into operation from 9am on Monday, August 5, with the opening of a new midwifery-led birthing centre in South Shields.

From August 1, South Tyneside District Hospital will have a midwifery-led maternity service for low-risk births, with higher risk cases referred to Sunderland or elsewhere.

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The move comes after a judge dismissed a legal challenge over the overhaul of stroke, maternity and pediatric services at hospitals in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Women who have had a problem-free, low risk pregnancy will now have the option of giving birth at the new centre, at home, at Sunderland Royal Hospital, which is within a consultant-led maternity unit, or at another maternity unit of their choice in the region.

Those whose pregnancy is high risk - if they are expecting twins, if their baby is in the breech position, or if they have experienced complications - will be advised to give birth in the consultant-led maternity unit at Sunderland, which is rated among the best in the NHS.

All women who are currently booked to have babies during July and August across South Tyneside and Sunderland are being contacted personally so early conversations can take place with their community midwife to discuss their options.

Many mums have expressed concern about what happens when a normal pregnancy suddenly becomes a high-risk delivery.

However, if the reaction to the news on the Shields Gazette's Facebook page is anything to go by, mums-to-be will be shunning the South Tyneside option in their droves.

Kelly Crowther led the way, commenting: "This will lead to fatalities. If I had to get to Sunderland hospital when I had my daughter, only one or neither of us would be here now. It is only due to the fantastic and immediate care we received by the wonderful and competent staff at Shields that we are both alive and here to tell the tale. I understand the idea behind it and I'm all for midwife-led births. However, I think by removing consultant/specialist care out to city hospitals, they are making a grave mistake. Any birth has the potential to become an emergency at any stage of labour, delivery or post delivery. What happens then?"

Sally Foreman-Baggaley: "The article makes it sounds like it’s a good thing and they’re getting some fancy new birthing centre rather than services being cut. I’m high risk and now having to find another hospital and travel further! Yes, that makes perfect sense!"

Helen Bell: "When my son was born 25 years ago, the specialist was totally against it becoming a midwife-led unit. He had nothing against the midwives (me neither, they do a brilliant job), but said doctors needed to be in charge overall. Had I been left to midwives only I would've more than likely lost my son. Bad move, South Tyneside."

Protesters have already tried to block changes to South Tyneside's maternity and other services, but a judge threw out their case in December.

Anne Mcglasham: "This is a recipe for disaster. My nephew was born prematurely at South Tyneside Hospital. It was an emergency section due to a placental abruption. If they had to travel any further he and his mam might not have survived."

Kerry Bartlett: "So you go in low risk and you have an unexpected complication...then what? An accident waiting to happen, I think!"

Deborah Anne Swan: "I think this is disgusting and dangerous. Nothing against the brilliant midwives, but what if there is an unforeseen complication following a perfect pregnancy? Is the mother to be bundled in an ambulance to Sunderland when she really should have had the help at hand in our own hospital in a town this large?"

Jemma Daniels: "I'm classed as having a low-risk pregnancy. However, I will not be taking any chances and will now sadly be going to another consultant-led maternity unit to give birth in September. It's just not worth the risk, in my opinion."

Ruth Hall: "How can anyone be guaranteed a low-risk pregnancy? Both of my children were delivered by doctors at the last minute, despite them being classed as 'low risk'. The thought of being blue-lighted at that point knocks me sick. This is a huge risk for women of South Tyneside and a massive blow to the unit who, in my opinion, do a marvellous job."

Monica Sutherland: "Totally shocking and not acceptable for the mothers and babies of South Tyneside. Too big a risk factor. Who can predict what will happen during the mother's labour?"

Amy Pandeles: "How many normal deliveries end up being emergencies? Mine for one."

Shelly Stonehouse: "Mine turned from a normal delivery to an emergency C-section in 20 minutes! What happens then?"

Sarah Everson: "Even with a low-risk pregnancy there are always risks during birth, so what are they going to do then?"

Lisa Woodhouse: "Anything can happen during birth. What happens if a low-risk birth is suddenly at risk? Wait for ambulance transfer to Sunderland? Absolutely disgraceful what's happened to STDH."

Danielle Reay: "It's the stupidest idea I've ever heard because pregnancy can be a breeze, as it was for me, as was the labour, until all of a sudden I started fitting and we nearly died.

Why play Russian roulette with lives?"