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Homebirth service resumes on case-by-case basis at PCH

Homebirths have resumed on a case-by-case basis at the trust which oversees Peterborough City Hospital.
Peterborough city hospital
Homebirths have resumed at Peterborough City Hospital Trust (Picture: John Baker)

The homebirth service was suspended temporarily from July 23 at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Peterborough and Hinchingbrooke hospitals, due to ‘severe’ staff challenges. 

Previously director of midwifery Penny Snowden had said a shortage of midwifery staff across the East of England region led to a prolonged suspension of this service. 

Commenting on the homebirth suspension, during a HealthWatch meeting last month, chief nurse at NWAFT Laura Stent had said: “This was a difficult decision, made only as the very last resort in response to unprecedented staffing shortages due to Covid-19-related absences. To keep all birthing women, and their babies, safe, we had no option but to ask them to come into hospital to have their baby.   

“Sadly, this issue impacted wider than our Trust, with other maternity units in our region reporting that they were in a similar position, which meant we were unable to call upon support from them to help alleviate our staffing shortages.” 

But on Thursday (September 10), during a Facebook Live event, Snowden and head of midwifery Hazel Cathcart confirmed the service restarted this week. 

Pregnant women over 36 weeks into their pregnancies are being contacted to discuss their birthing choice individually. 

Cathcart said: “Sadly there has been a disruption to the homebirth services mainly driven by staffing challenges, particularly community staffing. 

“We are now thankfully able to provide a case-by case service form this week. 

“Currently, we have about 10 women requesting home births.  Our staffing challenges are getting better 

“We are hopeful we will be able to fulfil your choice of having homebirths. 

“Every time a new group reaches 36 week and above, will be contacting them to discuss their choice.” 

“Every opportunity will be taken to ensure you will have a home birth if that’s your choice.” 

Snowden added: “Our community midwife has been in touch with all women 36 weeks and above into their pregnancy who opted for a homebirth to discuss their plans. 

“We intend to carry on contacting women each week. 

“Both myself and Hazel have supported women having home births throughout our career and so we would like to assure you, we are here to support your choice.” 

Previously there were some concerns of pregnant women being diverted to other hospitals for delivery due to staffing issues. 

During the Facebook live, both Snowden and Cathcart clarified this was referred to very small number of women who had been risk assessed prior to being diverted. 

In a message for their patients, they said: “We want to assure you that if you go into labour and call our helpline you will be given the appropriate advice.  

“Our doors are open always and we would only suggest women to go to other hospitals if they have been assessed and capable to do so.   

“We want to assure patients their maternity services are there for them.”