Health bosses have have revealed plans to create a ‘central hub’ of maternity services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool to boost births in the town.
Bosses at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which run the hospital, are also planning to recruit more midwives to fill a staff shortage.
Hospital bosses revealed the moves in a letter to Hartlepool MP Mike Hill over the future of the town’s maternity unit after the number of births fell to single figures.
Mr Hill expressed his concern for the viability of the midwife-led unit at the University Hospital of Hartlepool after there were just three deliveries at the unit last year and five home births in the town.
He also raised reports from constituents that mums were unable to give birth at the unit because of staff shortages, someting the hospital trust denied.
Now a hopsital chief has written to the MP outlining efforts to recruit more midwives and make the Midwifery Led Unit (MLU) at Holdforth Road a ‘central hub’ for the town.
Going forward we wish to make the MLU the central hub for maternity services in HartlepoolJulie Gillon, hospital trust Interim Chief Executive
Julie Gillon, interim chief executive of the hospital trust, wrote: “We are very conscious of the reduced numbers of births in the MLU (Midwifery Led Unit) recently and accept that we have had some midwifery staff shortages in recent months, which has, to some extent, impacted on our ability to consistently deliver the service from the MLU.
“However we are actively recruiting midwives with the skills and experience to work in the MLU and we are working to ensure the full compliment of staff are in place in the near future.”
Ms Gillon added the trust is working closely with Hartlepool Borough Council’s Audit and Governance Committee over improving access.
She added: “We are also keen to work with the council to look at ways of publicising the MLU in Hartlepool and going forward we wish to make the MLU the central hub for maternity services in Hartlepool.”
Mr Hill said: “I am pleased that the Chief Executive has written to reassure me that the Trust has no plans to scrap the unit and instead intends increase capacity and centralise Hartlepool’s maternity services at Holdsforth Road.
“Creating a central hub at the MLU should provide for safer and more locally accessible services for Hartlepool parents and hopefully that will also mean an increase in the number of births at the Hospital, as well as improved outreach and advice services.
“If all this means the future of the birthing unit is secure then I am more than happy to work with the Trust to secure these outcomes.”
The hospital trust said the work around maternity is part of the Hartlepool Matters programme, which involves the council and health partners working to maintain and improve services within the town.
A spokesman added: “Women will continue to have the choice to book at both Hartlepool and North Tees hospital as well as for home delivery dependent on their past medical history.
“We hope this letter reassures Mr Hill of the trust’s commitment to safe, high quality maternity services in Hartlepool and we look forward to working closely with him over the coming months.”