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Trust at centre of high profile maternity safety review opens new birth centre

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A trust at the centre of a major review of maternity safety with national implications has marked the progress it has made in the last three years with the official opening of a new birth centre.

Valentines’ Day saw the official opening of the £12m state-of-the-art maternity unit at Furness General Hospital, which is run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

“I think that this new unit is a tangible sign of a lot of changes that have happened at the trust”

Bill Kirkup

More than 140 members of staff, bereaved parents, dignitaries and other guests attended the opening ceremony, including Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the review into the trust.

The independent investigation looked into the management, delivery and outcomes of care provided by the maternity and neonatal services at the trust from January 2004 to June 2013.

Dr Kirkup’s final report, published in March 2015, detailed serious care failures in the maternity unit at Furness General that resulted in avoidable harm to mothers and babies, including tragic deaths.

The hospital’s new South Lakes Birth Centre, named by the public and staff, took just 15 months to build.

It comprises 14 en suite birthing rooms with facilities for partners to stay over, two operating theatres, a special care baby unit, a maternity assessment area, a transitional care facility, a skills lab for training, and a bereavement suite.

“This really is a new beginning for our maternity services”

Sascha Wells

To ensure the new unit met the needs of staff and the local communities, the trust said it had been working closely with both staff and patients to design the facility and what it is made up of.

Those involved included families who lost loved ones at Furness General, other women and families that have used its maternity services before and those that may use them in future.

Some of the ideas that were given that were then incorporated into the final design included the facilities for birth partners to stay with the woman from admission to discharge home.

Other ideas included extra birthing pools, the dedicated bereavement suite and garden, and the skills lab which enables multi-disciplinary teams to learn and train together.

The lab includes a £75,000 state-of-the-art Sim Mum that simulates various birthing situations and complications to allow staff to keep their clinical skills and decision making up to date.

Meanwhile, the Bay Hospitals Charity has raised £225,223 to help buy furnishings and equipment for the unit, including the Sim Mum, three of the birthing pools, and resuscitaires for the birthing rooms.

“It’s been steadfastly working through all of the improvements we needed to make with the teams, all of the midwives and the families”

Jackie Daniel

Dr Kirkup said: “I think that this new unit, apart from the fact it is an absolutely wonderful environment, is a tangible sign of a lot of changes that have happened at the trust.

“The trust came from a very difficult position in 2015 when the report was published and it has gone further and faster in transforming its culture and the service that it is providing in maternity than I ever thought that they could,” he said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be here to see that.”

Sascha Wells, director of midwifery, gynaecology and obstetrics of Morecambe Bay, said: “I feel absolutely elated that we have reached this point.

“It is a very exciting time for our teams and everyone in the Barrow area,” she said. “We have had some fantastic feedback from our guests today, which is extremely touching and I want to thank everyone who has supported us through this journey.

“This really is a new beginning for our maternity services,” she said. “The new unit includes all of the facilities that the public has told us will make a real difference to women and families.”

Trust chief executive Dame Jackie Daniel added: “It’s a culmination of years’ worth of work – not only on the design, the planning and the building, which is truly spectacular, but it’s been steadfastly working through all of the improvements we needed to make with the teams, all of the midwives, the doctors and the families that have supported us with that.”

The first baby to be delivered at the new centre was McKenzie Kirkland, who was born a week early on 7 February.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

New unit ‘tangible sign’ of changes at Morecambe Bay

Members of the maternity team at Furness General Hospital

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

New unit ‘tangible sign’ of changes at Morecambe Bay

Heidi Bowron, Judith Read, Paula Richardson, Louise Barker and Christine Metcalfe of Bay Hospitals Charity

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