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Concern over Midwife Led Maternity Units

I was so very sad to read in the Sunday papers this week about the story of the inquest into the death of a new born baby girl who died following delivery at Ludlow maternity unit, a midwife led unit attached to the Community Hospital. My initial reaction was ‘not again’.

These units are staffed, on the whole, with dedicated and caring professionals whose own lives are greatly affected by the loss of a new born baby but as this case and those I have been involved with in the past show, these units are not equipped either with staff or medical equipment to deal with complications.

In this case, it would appear from the information available, that this mother should not have been referred to a midwife led unit for delivery. The inquest concluded the newborn baby could have survived had she been born at a hospital staffed by obstetricians.

The time it took and would take to travel from many midwife led units to a consultant led unit is too long to alter the outcome in many of these tragic cases.

Child birth is dangerous, the unexpected can happen. We are all persuaded that we want the nearest thing to a home birth, which is the less clinical more relaxed environment of a midwife led unit. However, there was a reason that births were moved to hospitals after 1948, and that was because in the home environment the mid-wife or GPs were not prepared or able to deal with emergencies. Babies and mothers died.

This is no criticism of the mid-wives. Whilst the Royal College of Midwives maintain these units are better value for money, and in a straight forward delivery for the parents and the midwives the outcome is a healthy baby and Mum, I wonder if anyone at the RCM have talked to midwives who have been in an emergency situation with a mother and known that the best medical help is 40 minutes away.

We need to ensure expectant parents are given all the information about where they plan to have their baby delivered. Mothers are assessed and if considered low risk the preferred route is the local midwife led unit. In rural midwife led units like ours in Ludlow, these cases tragically demonstrate the need to err on the side of caution. There is not the time to take any risks.