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Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council,
Berwick WorkSpace,
Boarding School Yard,
90 Marygate,
TD15 1BN
T: 01289 302391

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Have your say about the future arrangements for midwifery-led services at Berwick

Released on 13 December 2012

Local people throughout Berwick and the surrounding area are being invited to give their views on future arrangements for midwifery-led services at Berwick in a statutory public consultation taking place over 14 weeks.

From 11 December 2012 to 19 March 2013 NHS North of Tyne, who are responsible for commissioning health services in Berwick, will be talking to local people - and in particular young mothers and future mothers - about how local maternity services can be provided safely.

This consultation is part of a statutory process which is set out in section 242 (1B) of the NHS Act (2006) which requires NHS commissioners to involve people in the planning, development and consideration of proposals for changes in health services.

NHS North of Tyne, which is responsible for making sure that people living in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside receive the health services they need and that these are safe and of a high quality, is keen to hear what local people think about proposals for midwifery-led care that have been put forward in a safety review report by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Northumbria Healthcare, which manages hospital, community and adult social care services across Northumberland and hospital and community health services in North Tyneside, made two proposals in a report published in early November following a safety review.

The safety review was carried out following the trust's decision announced on August 1, 2012 to temporarily suspend deliveries at the Berwick midwifery-led unit and inpatient hospitals stays for women after the birth of their baby. The decision was made following two serious incidents which highlighted concerns about the low number of births taking place at the unit - 13 babies over the previous year - which meant the midwives didn't have the opportunity to practise their full range of clinical skills.

Two options were put forward by Northumbria Healthcare - and for both, midwives would need to undergo regular mandatory rotational training to help them maintain their clinical skills.

These options are:

Option one - resume services for both deliveries and inpatient care as they were before the temporary suspension. This would include all antenatal care for both low risk and high risk women, hospital and community deliveries for low risk women and 24/7 inpatient postnatal care and community midwifery services. This option would need the recruitment of additional midwives to allow regular rotation to ensure clinical skills are maintained and for the unit to remain open 24/7.

Option two - to provide a 24/7 on call midwifery-led service which would mean low risk women could give birth in Berwick, either in a birthing room or at home. Women could return home six hours after giving birth and there would be enhanced community midwifery support for women at home. All existing hospital and community antenatal care would also continue.

These options are covered in more detail including their pros and cons, the background to the decision to temporarily suspend births, national guidance, information on quality standards and what local people have already said on the issues, in a statutory consultation document NHS North of Tyne has published.

This document is available from various community venues around Berwick, including at the offices of the Berwick Advertiser, as well as on-line at

Dr Mike Guy, medical director of NHS North of Tyne, said: "We recognise how important it is for people in Berwick to have services as close to home as possible but it is important that the services we commission for them are safe and sustainable.

"This period of public consultation will provide an opportunity for a public discussion about the options included by Northumbria Healthcare in its safety review. We will take all possible steps to make sure that people living in Berwick and the surrounding areas, particularly the women who will be using maternity services in the future, have the opportunity to comment during the consultation."

Dr Alistair Blair, chief clinical officer (designate) for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, which from 1 April 2013 will take over responsibility for commissioning the majority of healthcare services for people living in the county, said: "We look forward to working with the local community over the next three months to understand how going forward maternity services in Berwick can best meet the needs of the local community but in doing so we must ensure high levels of clinical safety."

During the consultation period NHS North of Tyne will be holding public meetings and, along with Northumbria Healthcare, will attend meetings of local groups such as Berwick Town Council.

The public meetings will take place on:

Wednesday 30 January 2013 1.30 pm

Wednesday 6 March 2013 6.30 pm

The Maltings, Eastern Lane, Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 1AJ

Further independent research will be carried out, targeting mothers and future mothers, as well as an on-line questionnaire that local people who wish to make their views known are encouraged to complete.

Dr Guy said: "We are very keen to hear the views of as many people as possible about the two different options that are being proposed - and if you are supporting or disagreeing with either option then to say why."

The survey is available on-line at

Comments can also be emailed to:

Or people can write to: Freepost Plus RRYY-HGHX-TESR, NHS North of Tyne, Berwick Maternity Consultation, 1 Esh Plaza, Sir Bobby Robson Way, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE13 9BA

Or they ring with their comments: 0191 217 2599

All comments must be made by 19 March 2013. They will all be taken into consideration and included in a report to the NHS North of Tyne board which meets in public on 26 March 2013.

The usual statutory consultation period under the NHS Act is 12 weeks, however NHS North of Tyne has extended this to 14 weeks to give an additional two weeks to take into account the Christmas and New Year holidays.

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