NHS commissioning body set to discuss BMU review

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NHS North of Tyne, the body responsible for commissioning local healthcare services, will consider the findings of a review into the future of Berwick Maternity Unit at a board meeting on November 27.

It has been presented with two possible options by Northumbrian Healthcare NHS Trust for the future provision of maternity services in the town - both of which would see the maternity unit reopen (see panel).

An NHS North of Tyne spokeswoman said: “It is important that the services we commission for local people are safe. We will give careful consideration to the report prepared by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, including its recommendations for future maternity service provision in Berwick.

“This will be considered by our board on November 27 alongside the outcome of the independent research that took place in September and October, which included seeking views from more than 200 mothers and future mothers living in the town and surrounding areas.

“We would like to reassure local people that no permanent changes will be made to services without full public consultation.”

Although the maternity unit remains closed for births, Northumbria Healthcare is reminding pregnant mums that the unit remains open seven days a week for all antenatal, postnatal and consultant-led clinics. This is to provide all of the usual support for expectant mothers such as routine antenatal bookings and care for both low risk and high risk pregnancy.

The trust is also continuing to provide community midwifery support during the times above with midwives visiting patients at home.

During this interim period, any expectant mothers who require medical assistance or advice outside of normal working hours can seek help by calling the team of midwives in Wansbeck 24 hours a day.

Mums-to-be are currently able to use Wansbeck, Borders and Alnwick Infirmary as alternatives.

In addition, the trust is also committed to support any women from Berwick who wish to have a home birth during this interim period by working with its other community midwifery teams to deliver this service where necessary.

Meanwhile, mums and their babies in the north east are to get new support with a share of a £25m fund to improve birthing environments. This announcement comes ahead of the NHS mandate – published next week - which will reinforce commitments around improving care, support and experience for women during pregnancy.

Maternity services will be able to apply for new funds to improve their maternity environments. They can bid for ensuite facilities, rooms where dads can stay overnight or a wider range of facilities available like birthing pools. The NHS Information Service for Parents is also being expanded.

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