Maternity Strategy delivers for women

Women and their partners welcomed proposals to deliver the new era in maternity care to boost services for patients and staff.

The majority said they want the birthing centre to be created at the Simpson's Centre for Reproductive Health and for NHS Lothian to push ahead with plans to upgrade facilities at St John's Hospital.

It comes after women and families from across the area took part in the public consultation to help shape the future of the service to meet the changing needs of the community and the unprecedented rise in the birth rate.

The number of babies born in Lothian soared by 11 per cent, from 8,538 in 2004 to 9,456 in 2007 - a total of 6,508 at the RIE and 2,948 at St John's in 2007.

The creation of the birthing centre, led by midwives, would mean that an extra 1,500 women, who are assessed as being likely not to require any high-tech medical interventions, can birth their babies in a more "homely" environment, but still have medical expertise close by should this be required.

More medical, midwifery and support staff will also be employed to meet the predicted rise in the population of around 10 per cent.

Maria Wilson, Chief Midwife, NHS Lothian, said:

"We are thrilled with the reaction to our vision for maternity services in NHS Lothian. This will create more choice for women about when, where and how they deliver their baby".
"Throughout this intensive consultation period, women have told us exactly what they want from their maternity services and we have listened and put their needs at the heart of our proposal."

Over the course of three months, midwives and health staff took part in intensive focus groups with women and voluntary groups to gather views and reaction to the proposals.

Pregnant women and mothers also said they strongly supported NHS Lothian's commitment to supporting more homebirths.

The consultation, which ran from February 1 to April 30, also found that interpretation services were crucially important to women, who don't have English as a first language, throughout their pregnancy - from ante-natal classes to the labour room.

Around 20,000 documents were sent to community midwives, GPs, community councils and other organisations during the process. A total of 140 staff, women and voluntary organisations also attended a stakeholder event to learn more about the vision for the service. The feed back from this event was extremely positive from both staff and women.

The strategy will now be considered at the Board Meeting of NHS Lothian on Wednesday (May 27).