A RADICAL new vision for the NHS could ensure more births take place in Redditch in future than under current plans to downgrade maternity services.
Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, has set out his five year vision of how the service will meet the challenge of dealing with growing demand while filling a £30billion funding shortfall.
The plan outlines a number of options covering primary care and A&E as well as a new way of delivering maternity services which could have implications for the Alexandra Hospital.
Mr Stevens has commissioned a review of future models for maternity units which will report next summer and will make recommendations on how best to sustain and develop maternity services.
There will also be a drive to increase the amount of care delivered in midwife-led units with midwives being urged to group together and provide such services themselves.
Research suggests only a quarter of women want to give birth in a consultant-led unit in hospital but in reality 85 per cent of them do.
New evidence from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) states for low risk pregnancies it is safer for women to give birth in MLUs or at home with fewer epidurals, instrumental deliveries and caesarean sections than CLUs.
As part of the Worcestershire reconfiguration plan a midwife-led unit could be created at the Alex, although the estimated number of low risk births it could deal with varies from 200 to up to 700.
However it is estimated about 45 per cent of women have a low risk of developing complications during pregnancy, meaning potentially more than 900 of the 2,100 births at the Alex every year would be suitable for the MLU.
Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group, has asked for the Worcestershire reconfiguration plan to be included as part of Mr Stevens’ review with the option of using it as an example case.
“The Stevens review is going to give advice and talk about how we can enable midwives to give that sort of care so we can reduce the number of women that have to be seen in a consultant-led unit. That’s something I certainly welcome.”
But many MLUs, particularly freestanding ones, across the country are struggling to remain viable as women see giving birth in hospital as a safer option in case of unforeseen complications.
Over the last 20 years in England 22 MLUs have been created following the closure or merger of a CLU, but as of 2013 eight of them had closed and two were under threat.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said she hoped the NICE guidance would focus commissioners’ and providers’ attention on the need to ensure women have real choice over where to give birth.
“Women should be making their choices based on the best available evidence and with the help, advice and support of midwives. It is important women feel able to make the choices that are right for them.”