East Kent Maternity Review

24 December 2010, 00:00

Just a day after changes to Maternity services in Maidstone were confirmed; a review of services in East Kent has been announced.


This is the Statement from NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent

Maternity services across east Kent are to be reviewed to ensure the rising number of mothers-to-be continue to receive safe, high quality care and patient choice.

The joint review by the hospitals trust (East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust), the PCT (NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent) and GPs will begin in January and run until May.

Patients and the public across east Kent will be invited to give their views to ensure the needs of all women and their families are continuing to be met.

Hazel Carpenter, the PCT’s Director Lead for Maternity Services, said: “We have a duty to make sure we meet the needs of all pregnant women and their families and that they receive the safest, highest quality service and choice we can provide.

“A rising birth rate requires increasing levels of care. Staffing units round the clock with the right level of midwifery skills can be difficult – so the reason for this review is to ensure we can rise to the challenge and continue to provide safe care and the level of choice mothers-to-be expect within our budget.

“We will continue to work closely with the hospitals trust, local GPs and the public to ensure east Kent has services which put the needs of women and their families first, with safety and quality as the top priorities.”

At present the trust offers two midwifery-led birth centres for low risk births in Dover and Canterbury, one midwifery led unit at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, and another due to be opened at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate. In addition there are consultant-led obstetric units at Ashford and Margate and some home births.

The review was agreed yesterday (Wednesday) by the hospital trust’s Board and follows a routine analysis of midwifery services. The Trust is up to full strength with midwifery numbers but anticipated changes may mean extra staff are needed to cover services.

Recent temporary staff shortages have meant that the Dover Birthing Centre has been closed for births but open for all other services. This unit will open again in January but the Canterbury birthing centre will now suspend its birthing services in January. It will remain open for all other services from 9am to 5pm seven days a week.

The recently completed midwifery led centre at Margate will also stay closed while the review is being carried out.

EKHUFT Medical Director Neil Martin said: “This is not an easy decision for us but we have taken into account these staff shortages and our priority is that the highest possible standards of safety continue to be applied to mothers giving birth and we are not prepared to take any risks.

"East Kent is extremely proud of the wide choice of birthing options we offer to mothers and we intend to continue offering as much choice as possible, as long as we can provide the high level of support necessary to ensure that these choices are safe for mothers and their babies."