Twenty-five years of Berwick Maternity Unit

Staff of the newly opened Berwick Maternity Unit with the first baby born there in November 1987

Staff of the newly opened Berwick Maternity Unit with the first baby born there in November 1987

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THE future of Berwick Maternity Unit hangs in the balance twenty-five years to the day after the doors were opened at the brand new, purpose-built facility.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and commissioners NHS North of Tyne were due to receive a detailed review report on Monday, following the temporary closure of the unit for births due to “serious safety concerns” on August 1.

NHS chiefs will now study the report before deciding whether to re-open the service as before, or launch a formal consultation period.

As campaigners fighting for the immediate reopening of the unit await the decision with baited breath, we look back 25 years to the day when midwife Iris Hannah delivered the unit’s first baby in November 1987.

“I delivered the first baby there, Stuart Trotter,” said Iris, who retired in 2009 having delivered over 500 babies. “I remember it well, there was only me and an auxiliary on duty, and I got Stuart’s dad in to help!

“I can hardly believe it was 25 years ago that we moved to the unit,” she added. “We were sad to leave Castle Hills and the temporary place where they’ve now built houses, but everyone was really excited to have a new maternity unit.

“It was quite busy,” she remembers. “We often had two deliveries happening at once.”

On November 12, 1987, the Advertiser reported: Berwick’s latest celebrity opened his eyes for the first time last Tuesday to face his debut in front of the cameras.

Baby Stuart Craig Trotter, weighing in at a healthy 6lbs 8 oxs, boasts the title of first-born at Berwick Infirmary’s new maternity unit.

His mum, Mrs Lorraine Trotter, of Braeside in Berwick, praised staff for their helpfulness and friendliness, describing the new unit as ‘super’ and baby Stuart as ‘absolutely gorgeous’.

Only a week after opening its doors the unit was fulled to its capacity, with six deliveries and two transfers from Alnwick.

Nursing officer Mrs Jo Bradley told the Advertiser: “Units like this have more advantages than bigger units - we work on a one to one basis with personal service given to our mothers and their babies. We can provide total care here.”

With 10 full time and part time midwives, there is round the clock care with one midwife always on duty and another on call in the evenings.

Every mother has her own room which Mrs Bradley sees as a great benefit, allowing them to mix with each other in the comfortable lounge or have their privacy if they so wish.

“We’re very free here - they can do as they like,” she explained.

The lounge is a home from home, with a television and soft chairs for the mothers to relax in and a patio outside where they can get some fresh air.

There are three bathrooms each containing toilet facilities, a bath and shower, and a nursery where babies can sleep if their mothers wish.

Perhaps one of the most impressive features is the large new delivery room and the adjoining scrub room where emergency caesarians can be carried out.

Both this delivery room and the smaller one next door have furniture and space so the mother can move round during labour and the husband can stay throughout.

There is a facility room serving both delivery rooms, staff changing rooms and a shower, making the unit totally self contained.

An entrance hall and reception area add a bit of comfort for visitors and the new unit also has its own laundry, milk store room, domestic utility, linen store, staff room, small kitchen and sister’s office.

At the centre of operations is what Mrs Bradley terms as a ‘sister’s station’ with full communication and administrative control.

In fact, the only outside source seems to be meals, which are delivered from the main hospital next door.

The Berwick maternity unit was housed at Castle Hills and temporarily at the school of nursing while the new unit was being prepared.

Mrs Bradley explained: “Castle Hills was a manor house where as this unit is purpose built.

“We have single rooms for the mothers and the whole unit is very homely.”

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