West Wales midwife-led maternity units officially opened by Deputy Health Minister
New midwife-led maternity units in Aberystwyth, Haverfordwest and Carmarthen have recently been officially opened by Deputy Health Minister, Vaughan Gething.
The units have been established following changes to how some women and children services are delivered in West Wales.
The latest advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that midwife-led care is as safe as traditional consultant-led maternity services for women with straightforward, low risk pregnancies.
In guidance published in December 2014, NICE recommended that more women should be encouraged to give birth in midwife-led units, rather than traditional labour wards.
The Welsh Government’s strategy for maternity services recommends that midwife- led units are available across Wales should women choose to give birth there.
The changes to maternity care in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area involved the creation of midwife-led units at Withybush Hospital, Haverfordwest, Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen, and Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth. Consultant-led maternity care is provided at Bronglais and Glangwili, and level two neonatal services are also provided at Glangwili.
Since the midwife-led units were set up, only 26% of first-time mothers booked to give birth at Withybush Hospital have been subsequently transferred to the consultant-led unit at Glangwili Hospital - significantly below the national average of 36%.
Mr Gething said recently:
“I am delighted to be in West Wales today to officially open three new, modern maternity units. They provide the safest environments possible for women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth in appropriate surroundings to maximise their chance of having a normal birth.
“The midwife-led facilities in Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospitals mean that midwife-led care is now widely available to all women in Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire.
“Midwives at these units are able to stabilise any baby born who needs more intensive care before being transferred to either the Glangwili neonatal unit or to a neonatal intensive care3 unit, such as in Swansea. This offers women and their families the assurance that back-up services are available if they need them.”
Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board, Steve Moore said:
“It is important that we continue to provide women with choice, where it is safe to do so, about where they have their baby. Most women can give birth without needing medical intervention and midwife-led units in each of our counties, as well as home births, can support this.”
In April, Wales’ new flying doctors service, EMRTS Cymru, will become operational. Using Wales Air Ambulance helicopters, teams of doctors and highly-trained paramedics will support standalone midwife-led units by stabilising women and babies with life-threatening problems, before transferring them to a consultant-led unit. The service will also transfer neonatal teams to time-critical cases.
Earlier this week, the Deputy Minister announced the Welsh Government is investing £180,000 to improve helicopter landing sites, including those at Withybush, Glangwili and Bronglais hospitals. It means the landing sites, which have already been cleared for day landings, will be available for night landings.
Mr Gething added:
“The investment we are making in the EMRTS Cymru ‘flying doctors’ service, which launches in April, ensures there are robust emergency transfer arrangements in place for mothers and babies who need the care of a consultant.”
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