Midwife unit branded another blow to Redditch

By Ian Dipple Thursday 27 February 2014 Updated: 28/02 09:23

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A DECISION to create a midwife-led unit at the Worcestershire Royal has been branded another blow for the women of Redditch.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (WAHT) has been awarded £497,000 from the Department of Health to establish the unit, which will allow women to deliver normally but with a consultant-led unit next door should problems occur.

The idea dates back to 2001 and was included in the package agreed with commissioners in 2008 the last time the county's maternity services were reviewed. A similar bid was made last year but rejected.

As part of the current review it has been ruled complex deliveries should be moved from the Alexandra Hospital to Worcester, but with the potential for a stand-alone midwife-led unit.

This would allow about 500 women classed at low risk to deliver at the Alex with strict procedures in place to transfer them to either Worcester or Birmingham should difficulties occur.

But there are concerns developing an MLU next to an obstetric unit in Worcester - with the same set-up available in nearby Birmingham - will kill off hopes of retaining some births at Redditch as women tend to prefer to have an obstetrician on hand.

Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, said it was another example of the inequality women in the north of the county faced.

"I want all mums to have these choices, however clearly choice does not extend to the north of the county thanks to Worcestershire Acute Trust and this government."

But Penny Venables, chief executive of WAHT, said the creation of the MLU in Worcester would increase choice for women across the county as Worcestershire was one of the only areas without such a unit.

She added it would also support the training of new midwives at the University of Worcester, as there is a higher level of surgical intervention on a full obstetric unit which limits opportunities for trainees to develop their skills.

Mrs Venables said it was separate to the hospital reconfiguration but she believed if women wanted it, enough of the 2,100 deliveries at the Alex could be delivered in a stand-alone MLU in North Worcestershire to make it viable.

"The women of Redditch and Bromsgrove are welcome to use the MLU in Worcester but for me it does not detract from the case for a unit in the north because in Redditch we know there are mums from outside the area who use the Alex," she said.

"The difference with the one in the north is it would be stand-alone where you have obviously got to have tighter protocols around who can give birth there. But as long as you've got the protocols and sufficient numbers it's possible. Those two things will be important in the consultation on that."

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