Pregnant women ‘devastated’ by service closure

Expectant mothers who planned homebirths left to find alternative midwifery provision, reports James Cracknell

Waltham Forest CCG announcing the launch of Neighbourhood Midwives in November 2016 (credit neighbourhoodmidwives.org.uk)

Expectant mothers were given just one week’s notice that an NHS-run midwifery service would close – leaving them to make alternative plans for giving birth.

The Neighbourhood Midwives service was established in Waltham Forest two years ago to provide the “continuity of care” that research had shown improved chances of uncomplicated homebirths, quicker recoveries, and healthier birth weights for babies. But around 300 pregnant women, some already past their due date, were told via email that the service was closing at the end of January.

Leila Reyburn, who is 32 weeks pregnant, said: “I was devastated to receive the email. Just the day before I’d confirmed my homebirth. Now I have to start again, with only weeks to go.

“The scheme was brilliant, and I’m sad for all the women, but also for the wonderful, committed midwives who are suddenly out of a job. We deserve answers as to why we’ve been left in this vulnerable position.”

Launched in November 2016 as a two-year pilot scheme by Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Neighbourhood Midwives received positive feedback during the time that it ran, but – according to the CCG – had proven difficult to co-ordinate and commission.

Gemma Rickets, who is 29 weeks pregnant, said: “I feel completely let down. I’ve been denied continuity of care, and it looks extremely unlikely I will be able to have a homebirth now. I’m nervous my birth experience will be so much worse than anticipated after being promised so much.”

In a statement on its website, Waltham Forest CCG claimed there would be a “smooth transfer” for women using the service to alternative providers within the NHS. The organisation stated: “Neighbourhood Midwives is no longer able to accept new women into the borough’s pilot maternity care programme. Women and families currently supported by the service are being contacted by the midwives providing their care to work with them to enable a smooth transfer of care to another provider within the local NHS maternity system.

“Waltham Forest CCG and local maternity care providers are working together with Neighbourhood Midwives to ensure that the women and their families affected continue to receive personal and safe maternity care in the local area.

“Women currently being supported through their pregnancy by Neighbourhood Midwives are being contacted directly and can also call the Neighbourhood Midwives helpline on 07584 416 096 if they have any queries about their care.”

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