Dr Dan Poulter kicked off his new role as minister with responsibility for nursing and midwifery yesterday with a visit to a state-of-the-art maternity unit in one of the country’s most deprived areas.
He was given a tour of the £17.5m unit at Newham University Hospital in East London, which has been described as “like a hotel”, and replaced outdated and overstretched facilities.
The new facilities include a 10% increase in the number of antenatal and postnatal beds, providing a total of 62. The majority are in four-bed bays and the remainder comprise single rooms.
Each of the separate rooms has an en suite bathroom, a bathing pool and a double bed, so a partner can stay over following the birth. Gas equipment is kept in a cupboard so it is accessible, but not intrusive.
Dr Poulter, a hospital doctor specialising in obstetrics and women’s health, was officially unveiled as the Department of Health’s new minister with responsibility for policy on nursing, midwifery and related issues on Monday. He took over the role from former nurse Anne Milton.
Speaking during the visit, he said: “As an obstetrics doctor myself, I know just how important it is that we do all we can to provide the best care possible for new mums.
“The new facilities at Newham University Hospital are a great example of what can be achieved and I have been very impressed today by how hard staff are working to deliver an excellent standard of care for their patients.”
Marsha Jones, the hospital’s matron of maternity inpatients, explained to Nursing Times that the new unit had replaced facilities, which had been built to cope with 3,500 births a year, and that were no longer “fit for purpose”.
The hospital, which is run by Barts Health NHS Trust, delivered nearly 5,500 babies in 2007 but was predicted to deliver nearly 6,700 a year by 2017. The borough of Newham has the highest birth rate in the UK, and one of the youngest populations.
“[The new unit] means we have the physical infrastructure ready for our projected birth rate. At the minute, we are not using all of the beds that we have got. And there’s a proposed plan if the birth rate does grow we can do further expansion work,” Ms Jones told Nursing Times.
Commenting on the design and décor of the new unit, she added: “We want to provide a ‘home away from home’ experience for mothers, their babies and their partners with privacy and dignity for every woman.
“I remember the first mother to deliver in the new unit commenting that it was like coming to a hotel because of the quality of the accommodation and furnishings.”