Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust has announced it will permanently close its Jubilee Birth Centre at Castle Hill Hospital, centralising all maternity services at its Hull Royal Infirmary site.
It was forced to temporarily close the midwife-led Jubilee centre earlier this year because of a midwife shortage highlighted by the Care Quality Commission.
Trust chief executive Phil Morley said in a statement this week the centre would close permanently, but a new midwife-led unit would be developed at the Hull Royal Infirmary site.
Mr Morley said: “We have taken the decision to ensure certainty and safety for women by moving all of our maternity services to our Hull Royal Infirmary site.
“For some time now we have been forced to close the Jubilee Birth Centre at Castle Hill Hospital due in order to provide midwife cover at Hull Royal Infirmary and as a result of staff sickness. This was unacceptable to women and to our trust. The decision we have taken today means that women who book to have a midwifery-led birth will be certain to receive that service.
“Furthermore we believe that this will make midwifery-led birth a more viable option for more women in our region. Since it opened in 2002 we have never seen many more than 350 births a year – less than one a day – at the Jubilee Birth Centre. By moving the service to Hull Royal Infirmary we hope to see as many as 1,400 midwifery-led births per year.”
A spokesman for Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire Primary Care Trust cluster, which commissions local health services, said in light of the decision it would propose a formal consultation on the future of maternity services in the area.
But he indicated the PCT cluster supported the trust’s decision. He said: “We acknowledge the decision made by the board of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and share their commitment to providing choice, certainty and safety in respect of local maternity services.
“First and foremost, it is our responsibility to ensure maternity services commissioned across Hull and East Yorkshire offer a consistently high level of quality and provide women with choice and consistency. At the same time, we must balance the needs of this service and the people who use it with the health needs of, and health services provided for, the wider population.”
Royal College of Midwives director for England Jacque Gerrard said: “The RCM wanted to see this unit remain open, so this is disappointing news for the women who want to give birth in this kind of environment, and very sad news for the midwives who want to provide care there. This limits choices for women in the area at a time when the government is saying there should be more choice.”
She added: “However, we are pleased to see that the option of birthing in a midwife led unit for women will still be available, even though this means centralising services and the closure of Jubilee. Midwife led care offers women a different type of birth experience from a clinical hospital environment, and one that also brings additional benefits.
“The RCM would hope to see more of them opening in this region and across England,” Ms Gerrard said.
“The RCM are keen to talk to the midwives and trust managers about this decision and how this affects choices for women in the area, and about the next steps for maternity services in the East Riding.”