Suspension of home births by King’s Lynn hospital ‘denies women choice’

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A childbirth charity has slammed Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) for suspending its home birth service for staffing reasons.

The hospital has stopped the service while it tries to recruit more midwives as it says it cannot safely meet the needs of both hospital and home deliveries.

Rebecca Chiller, of Birthrights, said: “The ongoing suspension flies in the face of national maternity policy and women’s legal entitlement to make choices about their births.”

In a letter to pregnant women the hospital said one per cent of the mothers it looks after usually chose to give birth at home.

The hospital is currently battling to recover after being put in special measure by the care quality commission, with staffing one of the areas identified as requiring improvement.

Catherine Morgan, director of nursing and patient experience, said: “We are very sorry that we have had to suspend our home birth service because we do not have sufficient midwives currently to safely meet the needs of both community and hospital maternity services.

“Our aim is that all parents are able to choose where the birth of their child takes place.

“However, we must always ensure the safety and quality of care of our mothers and babies comes first.

“Therefore we have taken the decision to suspend the home birth service for six months to concentrate all our resources on providing safe care in the hospital setting. We have had to make this difficult decision in the interests of patient safety.

“We plan to review the situation after this time.

“The midwifery team will be happy to continue to offer support and advice to mothers regarding options available to them.”

Pregnant Jean Stevens, 30, had her 16-month-old son Jensen at home and is desperate to give the same start to the daughter she is due to give birth to in eight weeks time.

She said: “I had the most wonderful experience having my son at home. I was making biscuits in the morning until the midwife arrived and then all she had to do was observe me.

“I was so relaxed that the only pain relief I had was a couple of paracetamols. To not have my daughter start life in the same way makes me feel very upset.”

Mrs Stevens and her husband Nick, who live in Elm, near Wisbech, are now considering borrowing £3,000 to fund an independent midwife to help them safely deliver their daughter at home.

The service was suspended in September but at the time it was hoped it could soon be reinstated. This week the hospital said that was unlikely to happen until at least June.

Anna Culy, 28, of Leete Way, West Winch, planned a home birth throughout her pregnancy but found out three weeks before the arrival of her son Edison, in December, that it was not going to be possible.

She said: “All the way through the pregnancy I had planned a home birth. It was a big deal to me.”