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Temporary suspension of birth services to take place at Helme Chase

9 May 2024

  • Westmorland General Hospital

Due to staffing issues, birth services at Helme Chase will be temporarily suspended from Friday 10 May 2024 for a period of six months. 

The midwife-led unit at Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal supports approximately two births per month and has been experiencing significant staffing issues over recent months.  

Sue Stansfield, Interim Director of Midwifery, UHMBT, said: “Protecting our women, pregnant people and colleagues and keeping them safe must be our number one priority. 

“We no longer have the number of midwives available to safely staff the unit and its on call arrangement that are in place overnight and at weekends - despite ongoing work to recruit to vacant posts. Therefore, we are making the difficult decision to temporarily suspend birth services at the unit for a period of six months.  

“This period will allow us to offer safe home birthing and birth services at our other two units, whilst working with maternity teams to review the way we use our colleagues across the Trust. The aim of this will be to develop a new way of working that will ensure we offer a safe and high-quality service to our local communities, whilst also supporting and developing our teams. 

“Even though birth numbers at Helme Chase are low, we appreciate that it will impact a small number of women and pregnant people that might have chosen to give birth in the unit. We are contacting all individuals who may be impacted directly to discuss their choices with them. 

Whilst birth services will be temporarily suspended, antenatal and postnatal care plus outpatient appointments at Helme Chase will continue as normal. The Trust’s home birth service and consultant-led birth services at Furness General Hospital and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary remain unchanged. 

Sue, concluded: “We appreciate this may cause some concern for women or pregnant people, and would encourage anyone who did want to discuss further to speak to their named midwife, the Community Matron or the Maternity Neonatal Voices Partnership on baywidemnvp@healthwatchlancashire.co.uk.”   

Janet Gorry, Bay-Wide Maternity and Neonatal Voices Partnership Lead, said: 

“Whilst we understand the difficult decision the Trust has taken; the priority must be high quality and safe care at a time birthing people and their families are most vulnerable. We appreciate the Trust will be contacting people directly impacted and we are available, as your local independent Maternity Neonatal Voices Partnership, should anyone wish to contact us with their views and experiences.”