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February 8, 2014

Midwife-led birth units replacing consultant ones

Many consultant maternity units have closed recently as the NHS has centralised care, and free-standing midwife-led ones have often replaced them. Enthusiasts welcome the opportunity for low intervention births, while opponents see them as a sop to soften the blow of closure, and destined to decline when the controversy dies down.

I’ve used newspaper and local council reports to identify all such units created over the last 20 years in England and Wales (table). These are not the only new ones; Barkantine and Tooting in London, not listed, were created de novo, and many others have been created alongside or within consultant units.

Of those created more than five years ago, half (9/18), have since closed, with a mean lifetime of 6.5 years. Of the 24 that remain, 12 opened within the last 5 years. The reasons were always too few births to make them financially viable.

Were women fearful of birth without epidural or of transfer in labour, or did managers and obstetricians give insufficient support? We need to know.

Midwife led unit

Closing consultant unit

Year opened

Status

1.       Tair Afon Birth Centre

Aberdare Hospital

1995

Closed 2012

2.       Grantham

Grantham General

1999

Open

3.       Dover Birth Centre

Buckland hospital

1999

Open

4.       Helme Chase, Kendal:

Westmorland Hospital

2001/02

Open

5.       Jubilee Midwife Unit Castle Hill

Beverley and Castle Hill Hull

2002

Closed 2011

6.       Wakefield

Pinderfields

2002

Closed

7.       Southport MLU

Southport GH

2003

Closed 2005

8.       Hemel Birth Unit

Hemel Hempstead Hospital

2003

Closed 2005

9.       Caerphilly Birth Centre

Caerphilly Miners Hospital

2003

Open

10.   Brent

Central Middlesex

2004

Closed 2008

11.   Bishop Auckland

Bishop Auckland

2004

Open

12.   Neath Port Talbot Birthing Centre

Neath Port Talbot Hospital

2004

Open

13.   Canterbury Midwife Unit

Kent and Canterbury Hospital

2004

Closed 2012

14.   Hexham Birth Centre

Hexham General Hospital

2004

Open

15.   Llandough Birth Centre

Llandough Hospital

2005

Closed 2011

16.   Huddersfield

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary

2008

Open

17.   Hartlepool Midwife Unit

Hartlepool

2008

Open

18.   Ascot Birth Centre

Heatherwood

2008

Closed 2011

19.   Wycombe Birth Centre

Wycombe Hospital

2009

Open

20.   Blackburn Birth Centre

Royal Blackburn Hospital.

2010

Open

21.   Rossendale Birth Centre

Royal Blackburn Hospital.

2010

Open

22.   Friarwood Lane Birth Centre Pontefract

Pontefract Hospital

2010

Open

23.   Netherbrook Birthing Unit

Solihull

2010

Open

24.   Maidstone Midwife Unit

Maidstone

2011

Open

25.   Cheltenham

Cheltenham general

2011

Open

26.   Salford Birth Centre

Salford

2011

Open

27.   Royal Bournemouth Hospital Birth Unit

Poole Hospital

2011

Open.

28.   Portsmouth Birth Centre

St Marys Hospital

2011

Open

29.   Halcyon Birth Unit

Sandwell

2011

Open

30.   Barking

King George

2012

Open

31.   Eastbourne Birth Centre

Eastbourne DGH

2013

Open

Update 9 Feb

changeinnumbers

This picture, courtesy of Birth Choice (click here), shows the same data another way.  Co-located midwife units are increasing steadily, but the number of free-standing ones remains pretty steady. As fast as new ones open, old ones close.

Update 10 Feb

Click here for a report by Miranda Dodwell from BirthChoice, published by RCM, on what has happened to freestanding midwife units in general since 2000. It’s full of excellent information, and shows the same trends. Total  freestanding units in England rose from 54 to 59 between 2001 and 2012, and delivery numbers in such units rose from 8,800 to 11,800.  That’s 1.8% of births.

Jim Thornton

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 8, 2014 11:35 am

    I’ve just learned that Grantham is also closing next week.

    • May 10, 2014 10:33 am

      Grantham is indeed sadly closed. Another great loss and there is no free standing Birth Centre in the area now. Choice obliterated once again.

      • May 10, 2014 11:59 pm

        Looks like Salford might be next. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/proposal-close-birth-centre-could-6800664

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