Public consultation about proposal to make permanent an interim change at Helme Chase midwifery-led unit in Kendal

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Public consultation about proposal to make permanent an interim change at Helme Chase midwifery-led unit in Kendal

Posted on Wednesday 21st September 2016

Public consultation is taking place across South Lakes over the next six weeks to seek views about making permanent an interim change at the Helme Chase midwifery-led unit at Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal.

This interim change, made almost two years ago, means that while women can still deliver their babies at Helme Chase 24/7, the staff are no longer on duty in the unit overnight and at weekends if there are no women or babies to care for. Instead they operate an on call service and if a woman goes into labour during these hours they arrange to meet her at the unit or at her home if the woman’s preference is to be assessed there.

The unit also continues to provide a full range of maternity services including antenatal clinics, scanning, postnatal care and parent education. Community midwifery and home birth services for Kendal and the South Lakes continue to be co-ordinated from Helme Chase.

In line with other units around the country, best practice and national guidance, the only service not available is inpatient postnatal care. Over recent years there has been a national shift towards women who have had uncomplicated births requiring no medical input or ongoing medical care going home within hours of the baby’s birth, with postnatal care being provided at home and in the community. This is because home is usually seen as the best place to recover following delivery.

During the first 15 months of the interim change being made, the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust gained more than 3,000 clinical hours. This time has enabled the midwives to provide more personalised antenatal and postnatal support in the community and also to work in the busier consultant-led maternity units at Furness General Hospital, Barrow and Royal Lancaster Infirmary which helps them to maintain their skills in labour and delivery.

NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Trust have reviewed how the arrangements have worked and the CCG is now proposing that the interim change is made on a permanent basis.

Between 21 September and 4 November 2016 the CCG is running the consultation and would like to hear from anyone living in the South Lakes who may have comments or concerns about these arrangements being made permanent. Independent researchers will be out about in Kendal and surrounding towns and villages seeking the views of women of child bearing age. Discussions will also continue with the Bay-wide Maternity Services Liaison Committee, which includes women with experience of using maternity services who work with the CCG and the Trust to make sure that the views of families are heard. Such views help to inform developments in maternity care for local women, their partners and families.

Eleanor Hodgson, director of children and families for NHS Cumbria CCG, said: “Over the past few years there has been a reduction in the number of babies born at Helme Chase, with the majority now delivering their babies at the consultant-led maternity units at Barrow and Lancaster. This meant there were many occasions when midwives were on duty in the unit when there were no mothers or babies to care for.

“The interim change released more than 3,000 clinical hours in the first 15 months alone. This has enabled the Trust to use its midwives more effectively to improve the maternity care it provides and now we are proposing that the on-call arrangement is made permanent. Both the CCG and the Trust have spent a lot of time talking to women about what is important to them when they use maternity services and we have valued the close working relationship we have developed with the Maternity Services Liaison Committee. As such a lot of progress has been made in improvements to maternity care which we would like to build on.”

She added: “We really want to hear from anyone who may have comments or concerns about these arrangements being made permanent so that their views can be taken into consideration.”

Further information is available at:|
and people can email comments to:|

Sascha Wells, director of midwifery at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that local women who have used Helme Chase have very much valued the service and we want to reassure them that a 24/7 delivery service is still available, with postnatal care provided in their own homes and in the community.

“We are keen to promote the unit as a place of birth for local women who are assessed as being low risk and who do not require obstetric or paediatric input in their care. We have a number of plans in place to raise awareness of the unit, including open days and more public information about the services available at Helme Chase.

“Since the interim change, the amount of midwifery time that we have released has meant we have been able to develop more personalised care for local women including ensuring that more women have a named midwife supporting them through their pregnancy and providing postnatal care in their own homes following delivery. We have been able to provide greater flexibility around antenatal care and now have out of hours clinics and we are also looking at the possibility of increasing drop-in clinics in community centres, children’s centres and pre-school groups.

“These developments are in response to feedback we have had from local women and also in line with the recommendations in a national report published earlier this year following a review of maternity services, which called for more care to be focused around the needs of individual women, their partners and families.”

Helme Chase is a standalone midwifery-led unit. It can be used by women assessed as having a low risk pregnancy, which means they are unlikely to develop any complications during their pregnancy, while giving birth or after the baby is born. About ten babies a month are now born at Helme Chase, which compares to around 17 a month during 2013.

Women assessed as being low risk can choose to deliver at Helme Chase or at one of the consultant-led units at Barrow or Lancaster.

Posted on Wednesday 21st September 2016


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