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Birth centre and home birth services to be reinstated after £750,000 investment

(Adobe Stock)

A £750,000 investment in maternity services including the recruitment of 35 extra staff will see the reopening of a birth centre and the reinstatement of home births in Swansea Bay over the next few months.

This comes two years after the midwife-led Neath Port Talbot Birth Centre was closed and the home birthing service suspended – both due to staffing shortages and pressures.

All available resources were focused on Singleton Hospital to ensure safe care could continue to be provided, in line with professional guidance from the royal colleges.

The health board reluctantly entered into this arrangement and recognised that it limited birth choice. It has been working hard behind the scenes to find a sustainable solution – which has now been achieved.

Board members heard at a meeting today (Thursday 28th September) that Swansea Bay UHB was investing £750,000 in hospital-based and community midwifery over two years.

This, coupled with changes to the way services are staffed, meant the NPT Birth Centre and the home birth service could be reinstated.

Previous attempts to recruit additional midwives were mostly unsuccessful because of a national shortage.

Now, however, Swansea Bay has succeeded in recruiting 21 midwives, a mix of newly qualified and experienced, who are due to start next month.

In his report to the board, Interim Chief Executive Dr Richard Evans said the investment and new workforce model would ensure effective, safe maternity services.

“We have also recruited new Maternity Care Assistants who will support midwives and allow them to spend more time doing what only they can do,” said Dr Evans.

“The first cohort of 14 MCAs includes eight existing Swansea Bay staff from across the health board, as well as new recruits.

“They will spend one day a week on the Certificate of Maternity Care programme in Swansea University and the rest of the time working with midwives and maternity staff to develop skills and achieve competencies.”

Swansea Bay has been fortunate to have obtained the services of renowned transformation midwife Sarah Norris, who created the bespoke training programme for the MCAs.

Dr Evans said there would now be a process of retraining and upskilling staff so the Neath Port Talbot Birth Centre could reopen, and the home birth service restarted.

“This will start next month with all services fully reopened by early 2024,” he added.