Health chiefs to improve how they 'sell' midwife-led birthing unit at South Tyneside Hospital as numbers 'lower than planned'

NHS chiefs have admitted they need to do more to ‘sell’ a new midwife-led birthing unit to pregnant women.
South Tyneside HospitalSouth Tyneside Hospital
South Tyneside Hospital

The new service was introduced in August, replacing the former Special Care Baby Unit at South Tyneside District Hospital.

But despite assurances the facility could be safer for some mums-to-be, bosses have admitted families choosing it have so far been ‘lower than planned’.

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“There’s a lot of reluctance from mums who have previously relied on a consultant-led service, so it’s important for us to sell the midwife-led unit as an experience for families,” said Vicky Mitchell, of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundations Trust.

“They can bring their whole families with them if they want and they can have visiting 24/7 – we’ve tried to make it more like a hotel experience.

“And we’ve had really positive feedback from the mums who have delivered there, and dads as well, which is something we want to build on as part of an holistic, family approach.”

Mitchell was speaking at a meeting on Wednesday November 27 of Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.

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Changes to birthing services in South Tyneside and Sunderland were introduced as part of the controversial Path to Excellence reforms, which also covered stroke and paediatric care.

A report for the panel added the service was still ‘in its infancy’ but it is not thought patients are ‘actively choosing to give birth at other locations’, such as Gateshead or Newcastle. According to the latest figures there were a total of 49 births at the midwife-led unit in August, September and October.

The new facility features en-suite birthing rooms, a birthing pool and additional postnatal rooms.

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Partners are able to stay overnight and one-to-one midwifery support is provided during labour.

Health chiefs say it provides mums-to-be a safe alternative to giving birth in a consultant-led hospital setting or at home.

Women with high pregnancies, for example if they are expecting twins, if their baby is in the breech position, or if they have experienced complications, are advised to give birth in the consultant-led maternity unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.