More than 100 hospitals will share a £25 million fund to improve and upgrade their maternity units, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter announced yesterday.
The money will go towards a wide range of projects. Several older maternity hospitals will be refurbished – like the 1970’s unit at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust and one at Taunton and Somerset, which dates back as far as the 1940’s. There will also be funding for a large number of simple measures that improve choice for women and their experience of maternity care. Across the country, the improvements will include:
- almost 40 new birthing pool, which can help make labour less stressful and painful;
- eight new midwife-led units, which are less clinical and more relaxing places to give birth;
- more en suite facilities in over 40 maternity units, providing more dignity and privacy for women because they won’t have to walk through the unit to use the bathroom; and
- more equipment like beds and family rooms in almost 50 units that allow dads and families to stay overnight and support women while in labour or if their baby needs neonatal care;
- better bereavement spaces at nearly 20 hospitals to support bereaved families after a tragic event such as a stillborn baby.
Other improvements include equipment that gives women more freedom to move around and change position while in labour and facilities that allow women to choose if they want a bath or shower.
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:
“A new arrival in the family is a joyous time but it can present a real challenge for mums and families, particularly those experiencing it for the first time.
“We are now going to see huge improvements to maternity services right across the country – from birthing pools to family rooms and even new midwifery-led units. These will make a big difference to the experience mums and families have of NHS maternity services, with more choice and a better environment where women can give birth.
“Maternity units have had to show evidence that they asked mums and dads about what changes they need to make – so we know these are the changes local people really want to see.”
In November, the Government opened the £25 million fund to applications from local NHS trusts and foundation trusts. Applications for funding have only been approved where there was evidence that local mums and dads wanted the changes. Bids were judged by a panel that included representatives from the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The Royal College of Midwives’ Chief Executive Cathy Warwick said:
“Dozens of new birthing pools, eight new midwife-led units, more en suite facilities in dozens of units, and lots more besides. It is great to learn about the positive changes that this extra £25m will make to many units up and down the country.”
Supporting new parents, both before and after birth, is crucial to helping children to get the best start in life. NHS maternity services already deliver high quality care for thousands of women every day, but we know there is more that can be done to improve mothers’ experience and to make the choices and standards of care more consistent across the country.