NHS agrees overhaul of north Essex maternity services is needed

12:20pm Friday 29th November 2013

AN overhaul of north Essex’s maternity services has moved a step closer after NHS bosses officially agreed change was necessary.

A review by the NHS North East Essex clinical commissioning group found mums-to-be in Colchester and Tendring were given options for birth, as well as varying levels of support before and after.

Proposals for change will be published in the new year, after the group’s board agreed there was a “case for change”.

Helen Kershaw, maternity commissioning manager, said the aim was to improve services, not save money.

She said: “This is purely about creating a sustainable maternity service for the future that continues to be safe.

“There’s a vast difference in the way services are provided across the district. There’s a long-standing inequality of ratios of midwives working across the patch.

“The plan, if approved, is to develop a suggested model of maternity service delivery across north east Essex.”

Principles agreed include ensuring women in labour have one-to-one care.

A report revealed the number of women aged between 15 and 44 would rise 19 per cent between 2008 and 2025. It shows how the majority of pregnant women in Tendring choose to give birth at Colchester General Hospital, where consultants are on-hand if a birth becomes high risk.

Even if a birth is deemed “low risk”, many mums-to-be choose Colchester over midwife-led units at the Fryatt Hospital, in Harwich, and Clacton Hospital.

In addition, 93 per cent of Colchester borough mums-to-be choose to give birth at Colchester General. That figure drops to 16.3 per cent in Clacton and 26.1 per cent in Harwich.

Midwives at Colchester help three times as many pregnant women than at Harwich or Clacton.

Mrs Kershaw said none of the children’s services which could host antenatal and postnatal support had been earmarked for closure by Essex County Council in its current consultation.

She added supermarkets had been successfully used elsewhere as bases for postnatal and antenatal care clinics.

This summer, a previous consultation on maternity services, which suggested closing Clacton and Harwich midwife-led units or downgrading them to birthing only centres, was shelved.

Options for an overhaul will be presented to the board in January, ahead of a consultation in April.

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