A decision has been made today (26 March 2014) on arrangements to provide women in North Tyneside with access to the best and safest possible maternity services.
NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced that, following careful consideration of feedback received during the recent public consultation, it has decided that the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside General Hospital should no longer provide a service for deliveries and inpatient postnatal care. This change will not happen until summer 2015, when the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital near Moor Farm roundabout, Cramlington, opens.
The decision was made today at a meeting of the CCG’s Council of Practices which comprises representatives from all GP practices across the borough. Yesterday, the CCG’s Governing Body met in public to consider the process that had been followed for the public consultation and concluded that it had been comprehensive.
Dr Ruth Evans, a North Tyneside GP, who is a clinical director of NHS North Tyneside CCG, said: “We have given very careful consideration to all of the feedback we received before reaching our decision. We have a great opportunity now to build on earlier discussions with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to make sure that women continue to receive the best possible care at all stages of their pregnancy. We know that postnatal care, particularly breastfeeding support, is very important to women and we are having ongoing discussions with the trusts about how this might be developed.”
“We also know that for some people, transport to the new hospital is an issue and we are talking to Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust about its travel plan. Women also said that they wanted more information about the services available to them at all stages of their pregnancy and again we have an opportunity to see if there is more that can be done to help women make informed choices about which services they choose to access.”
She added that the CCG was also keen to continue to work with partner organisations to consider what more can be done to help women to be healthier when they become pregnant to benefit them and their babies.
From summer 2015, there will be no babies delivered at North Tyneside General Hospital and no women returning there for inpatient care after having their babies at other hospitals. Both low and high risk women will have the choice of delivering their babies at the new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital or at Royal Victoria Hospital (RVI), Newcastle. RVI already has the Newcastle Birthing Centre, which is midwifery-led and a medical-led unit. The new Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital will also have a midwifery-led unit and a medical-led unit. Low risk women may also choose to have a home birth.
However, North Tyneside women will continue to receive as much of their antenatal and postnatal care as possible in a range of local settings.
The CCG Governing Body said it would be seeking assurances at its future meetings about the implementation plan for the new arrangements.
During the consultation, which started in early December 2013 and ran over 14 weeks, representatives of the CCG held four public events and visited 20 mother and baby groups at children’s centres, community centres and churches. Information was shared widely, including the distribution of more than 90,000 leaflets to households across the borough. There was also an online survey for women with recent experience of using maternity services or planning to do so in the future.
The public consultation followed a review of maternity services which showed that since the opening of the free-standing midwifery-led unit at North Tyneside General Hospital in 2007 there has been a year on year reduction in the number of women delivering babies there, and this now stands at around four a week. Over three‑quarters of North Tyneside women now give birth at RVI in either the Newcastle Birthing Centre or the medical-led unit.
The review included extensive independent research during summer 2013 with more than 1,100 women of childbearing age living across North Tyneside. This showed that while women value the support they receive from midwives, a priority for them is to have the full team, including obstetricians, present when they deliver their babies in case of complications.
The full reports that were considered at the CCG meetings this week are available on its website https://northtynesideccg.nhs.uk/about-us/governing-body/meetings-papers/