Betrayal of a woman’s right to choose? Norfolk hospital says it can not provide midwives for home births

Jean Stevens. Picture: Ian Burt Jean Stevens. Picture: Ian Burt

Thursday, February 6, 2014
7:00 AM

Women who choose to have their babies at home face paying £3,000 for a private midwife, after a hospital said it can not provide midwives for home births.

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Jean Stevens. Picture: Ian BurtJean Stevens. Picture: Ian Burt

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn has suspended its home birth service for six months, because of a shortage of midwives.

Its director of nursing said it had taken the decision in the interests of “patient safety”.

But a childbirth charity said the move “flew in the face” of a woman’s right to choose where she gave birth.

Pregnant mums are faced with paying up to £3,000 for a private midwife to attend if they want their baby to be delivered at home.

Jean Stevens, 30, of High Road, Elm, and her husband, Nick, are having to dig into their savings to find the money.

Mrs Stevens, who is expecting a baby girl next month, wanted to have a home birth as she successfully gave birth to son Jenson at home 16 months ago.

But she was told by her midwife that her birthing plan had to be changed as the home birth service had been suspended.

“I am so upset and angry I am having to use my savings to pay for the birth I want,” said Mrs Stevens.

“I really feel for other mums who want to have a home birth, but just haven’t got the money to pay. It is just so wrong.”

Mrs Stevens said that when she gave birth to her first child at home, she received one-to-one midwife care throughout.

She said: “She just observed and was there for me and if there were to be any complications the hospital would of been quickly contacted.

“To me, this feels natural, comfortable and less stressful to have my baby at home and my son can be involved too.”

Mrs Stevens has written to the supervisor of midwives at the hospital, calling for the suspension to be lifted, and her MP Steve Barclay.

Cathryn Remmington, 32, of Scholars Way, Upwell, desperately wanted to have a home birth with her second child.

She missed out three years ago, with the birth of her son Logan, because the midwife could not come out in thick snow in Essex, where she was living at the time. Fortunately, she lived within walking distance of a hospital.

Mrs Remmington’s hopes of having at home for this pregnancy were dashed when she was told that this was not possible.

Mrs Remmington said: “I was told at my booking appointment that it would be fine to have a home birth. Then in December, my consultant then told me that the service had been suspended - I was gutted.”

Mrs Remmington had enlisted the support of natural childbirth charity Birthrights and a solicitor to challenge the ruling and get the service re-instated.

But with her baby’s due date fast approaching, she has been forced to bite the bullet and plans to have her baby delivered at Peterborough City Hospital.

A spokesperson for the charity said that the mothers-to-be were left “devastated” by the change.

“The ongoing suspension flies in the face of national maternity policy and women’s legal entitlement to make choices about their births,” she added.

Mrs Remmington, who is expecting a baby girl in March, and runs baby sensory groups across East Anglia, said: “It is a human right that I should be able to have my baby at home. In hospital it feels that you’re on a conveyor belt and I don’t want to catch infections such as MRSA.

“Even though I am now having to give birth at Peterborough City Hospital, I will still campaign for other mums so that they have the choice where to give birth.”

Catherine Morgan, director of nursing and patient experience at the QEH, said it did not have enough midwives to meet the needs of both community and hospital midwife services.

She 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.”

During the first six months of last year, 1,197 women gave birth at the QEH - 30 of them chose to give birth at home.

In October watchdogs placed the hospital in “special measures” over a number of concerns including low staffing.

In January 2013, both the QEH and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said they were looking at ways to expand their maternity services after it emerged that women in labour had been turned away because maternity wards were full.

15 comments

  • Whilst I agree with much of what Daisyboots says.The end comment is contentious and suggest migrants have "more babies" than non-migrants. I expect they pay their taxes as well and entitled to the same services as we all are.

    Report this comment

    Responsible parent

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • These women should stop wining about where they are giving birth and be thankful they are expecting. So many lovely women do not get the chance to be mums,many of them going through IVF which ends in disappointment. We are so lucky in our country to have some fantastic midwives who are always over stretched and do their best within the constraints of the NHS so stop whining about where you're giving birth and rejoice in the fact that you are bringing new life into the world and going to be a parent.

    Report this comment

    Karlswife

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • You choose to have children, it is not forced on you by the state, the NHS provides a service, if you want anything over and about what is provided, then pay for it. Why is it people who get pregnant always expect special treatment, hand outs and even sympathy. It is a choice you made, so just deal with it. I was more than happy with the NHS service when all mine were born. What is this big deal about giving birth at home? Then something goes wrong and the baby needs specialist care and you complain there was a delay getting you to hospital.

    Report this comment

    Mr T

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • Shortage of Midwives???....there has never been a time where more and more women & Men are wanting to train to become midwives. the problem being, getting on the courses as they are paid for by thte governement. I know of at least 3 women who have got Alevels, access to nursing courses behind them, yet are still being turned fown on the course at UEA....These are women with a wealth of experience in bringin up their own children & going thorugh their own birth experiences. So I will never ever understand why there shouldbe a shortgae of midwifes.

    Report this comment

    luanmapo

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • Agree with Bubbly, Having a baby is your choice. The NHS will provide a service at the hospital, if you require something else, then you should pay for it. Some people start families and expect the government and everyone else to pay for it. It is your choice, you should pay for it. Just like i did and all other responsible people do.

    Report this comment

    DaveG

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • To have a baby at home is no different to using a private hospital, for which you have to pay. A home birth does mean one to one care, with the same midwife, something not afforded to mothers in hospital. If you want a better service then yes, you should pay the price. I had both of my children in the N&N and couldn't fault the service, we caught no bugs and were lucky enough to have the same midwife throughout. I recommend asking for a student midwife, as we had. A student only has one lady to deal with, unlike qualified who can have 3 on the go. The student was with me the whole time and we were joined by a qualified midwife for the delivery. This. A.though not at home, will hopefully offer there ladies continuity of the same midwife.

    Report this comment

    Bubbly.brunette

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • Oh dear, it looks like any future operations I might need will have to be carried out at hospital ! ;-)

    Report this comment

    Responsible parent

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • As long as the outcome is a healthy baby does it really matter? I had mine in n&n the staff were great ,if you want a home birth then ,yes, you should pay for it . Home births are not a right and the NHS can't afford them ,so get over it and start looking forward to bringing home your baby . Atter all isn't that the object of the excercise?

    Report this comment

    Reader

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • You can't always get what you want. Move on, make the best of it. Just be thankful that what you have as a fallback is infinitely better than thst available to millions of women elsewhere in the world. First World Problem !

    Report this comment

    guella

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • This Government is about to announce it will be spending millions (billions?) on buying 14 Lockheed Martin F-35 super-stealth jets, while it "cannot" afford to properly fund safe birth care for the women of this country. Priorities?

    Report this comment

    arfur

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • Whilst I agree with much of what Daisyboots says.The end comment is contentious and suggest migrants have "more babies" than non-migrants. I expect they pay their taxes as well and entitled to the same services as we all are.

    Report this comment

    Responsible parent

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • who did they have to help with childbirth in 608 when Hiraclius the elder and his son revolted against emperor Phocas? how was it possible, with all these immigrant Vikings, Norse and Romans, not to speak the Celts swamping the country, to have a decent birth here? In the 1980 South Norfolk had the best home delivery team in the country and the highest rate of home birth, birth that do not clogg up hospitals. My third son was born at home and the familiarity of our house made it so much easier, your germs, your bed home and surroundings, a far more relaxed environment, why nobody is carrying out minor surgeries in peoples houses I do not know. This last minute announcement was wrong. Kings Lynn should have forseen this financial and logistic gap much earlier and alerted expectant mothers much earlier, as well as publicise it. This deficit sounds like an accountant needs firing.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, February 7, 2014

  • A woman shouldn't have any 'rights' to demand a home birth service from the NHS. The provision of a home birth service should have been relegated to the history books by the NHS years ago as unsafe and unnecessary. Whilst good antenatal checks and monitoring can alleviate most risks it can't eliminate them entirely and ensure that 'if' a problem occurs the emergency treatment required is available immediately to mother and child. As midwifery services are already stretched to breaking point and the NHS ambulance service unable to guarantee its arrival within 8 minutes for life threatening calls the 'right' for a woman to have a baby at home is hardly a priority. As others have said the NHS should be about ensuring the health and safety of the woman and child and not about pandering to their supposed 'rights'.

    Report this comment

    Bad Form

    Tuesday, February 11, 2014

  • Please run a spell check before publishing articles...

    Report this comment

    merrydancer

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

  • I would like us to go back to the days when every woman had the RIGHT to choose whether to have it at home or in a hospital. You remember those good old days don't you? You know, when the Government gave the NHS enough money to staff itself properly and offer a service we were all proud of.

    Report this comment

    arfur

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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