Midwife shortage causes temporary closures at Queen's Hospital birth centre

Ambulances outside Queen's Hospital in Romford

Ambulances outside Queen's Hospital, Romford in December. - Credit: PA

Queen’s Hospital birth centre remains open despite patients having been told otherwise, according to the trust in charge of the hospital. 

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) admitted that redeployments of staff had resulted in the service being temporarily unavailable at points, but stressed it was not closed. 

The midwife-led unit, which opened in January 2013, can be chosen by patients with low-risk pregnancies, with other births handled by the hospital’s labour ward. 

The centre was closed temporarily for just over a week in September to allow for work on a new critical care unit at the hospital to be done. 

The critical care unit under construction at Queens Hospital in Romford.
Picture by Ellie Hoskins

The critical care unit under construction at Queen's Hospital in Romford. - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

However, some patients have claimed they were told the facility was unavailable in the weeks since then, resulting in confusion regarding its status.  

According to BHRUT this was a miscommunication – the service had been only temporarily unavailable due to staffing shortages. 

Chief nurse Kathryn Halford said: “On occasion we need to redeploy midwives from the birth centre to other areas of our service which are under pressure, as, like maternity units across the country, we are experiencing staffing challenges which have been impacted by the pandemic.” 

She said she understood the disappointment for women hoping to give birth in the unit, but the safety of mothers and their babies “must remain our highest priority”. 

BHRUT chief nurse Kathryn Halford Picture: BHRUT

BHRUT chief nurse Kathryn Halford Picture: BHRUT - Credit: BHRUT

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Expecting parent Martin, who did not wish to use his surname, said he had been told by staff at Queen's that it was “very unlikely” his wife Zdenka would be able to use the centre for her birth, due in less than a month. 

He said: “I was in Queen’s yesterday and spoke to one of the doctors and he said most of the time it was closed."

Martin said the centre’s unavailability “came as a bit of a shock” and that he and his wife were “very disappointed”. 

“I don’t think it’s common knowledge, nobody really knew,” he added. 

The pair had wanted to have a water birth after a good experience with their first child at the birth centre. 

But having been unable to find any alternatives closer than an hour’s drive away, Martin said they were resigned to using the labour ward at Queen's. 

BHRUT was recently told it must make improvements to its maternity services at Queen’s, following an unannounced Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in June. 

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