Women who are about to give birth in Norfolk will be the first in the country to be offered an ultrasound scan in order to help spot breech babies before they are born.
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust currently delivers 6,000 babies a year including around 150 full term breech babies.
It has now been given funding under a national safety campaign to pilot 25 hand-held scanners that will mean safer births for women who had no idea their baby was not in a head down position.
The Vscan, developed by the firm GE Healthcare, is a handheld, pocket-sized ultrasound tool that provides real-time black-and-white anatomic and colour-coded blood flow images.
The device provides a non-invasive look inside the body that can help speed up diagnostic decisions for a wide range of patients.
Its small size and light weight when compared to traditional ultrasound equipment also means staff at the hospital can carry their Vscan from patient to patient with ease.
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As part of the pilot scheme, 190 midwives at the trust are currently in the process of being trained to use and interpret the scanners.
Subsequently, there will be one in every delivery room and two on the antenatal ward and midwife led birthing unit.
Practice development midwife Jo Keable noted that traditionally, the midwife’s skill at “palpating”, or feeling for the baby’s position, was 70% effective, but the scanner offered the chance of achieving 100%.
“We will be scanning all the women arriving during labour and those who come in for induction,” she said. “When we discover a breech early on it means a woman can speak to an obstetrician and discuss options in relation to her individual needs.”