Barking Community Hospital’s maternity unit opens

Women will be able to give birth in a hospital in Barking and Dagenham for the first time in two decades following the opening of a new maternity unit that is forecast to handle up to 600 deliveries a year.

Four women will be able to give birth at any one time at the unit at Barking Community Hospital, which had its first intake last week.

The midwife-led initiative at the revamped medical centre will not only offer care for pregnant women “on their doorstep” but will also take “the extra load” from Queen’s Hospital in Romford, said Barking and Dagenham’s chief GP, Dr Waseem Mohi.

The news will come as a relief for many, including health campaigners who were upset about the delay to the opening of the maternity department when the Upney Lane hospital’s �12 million upgrade was completed last year.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS trust (BHRUT), which runs Queen’s and King George hospitals, is currently under investigation by the health watchdog over failings in its maternity wards, among other departments.


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Dr Mohi, chair of the Barking and Dagenham clinical commissioning group, said: “There are two main reasons for us setting up this new unit. One is to have a local community maternity service and the other thing was there have been some concerns with BHRUT. We are diverting a lot of the maternity care into Barking Community Hospital now to take the extra load.”

There are about 3,700 births to Barking and Dagenham women each year. Currently more than 90 per cent of these babies are delivered at BHRUT hospitals but this figure is expected to drop as more women are referred to the new unit.

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The centre, which is being run by staff from Newham University Hospital, is currently seeing women who are about 12 weeks’ pregnant and the first births are expected in the autumn.

Because the unit is midwife-led, it caters only for low-risk pregnancies.

There are three delivery rooms – two with birthing pools – and a fourth room mostly for post-natal care that could also be used as a delivery room if needed.

Referrals

Midwives are currently seeing women for three days a week but that will move up to five days as referrals from GPs increase.

Dr Mohi said medics looked at midwife-led birthing sites that are “running excellently” before giving the new centre the green light.

Births were taking place at the former Upney Hospital, which the new building has replaced, until the early 1990s.

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