Maternity services in Gloucestershire remain shut due to midwife shortages
By Laura Enfield | 22nd May 2023
Maternity services in Gloucestershire will remain shut for another six months due to the ongoing midwife crisis.
The Aveta Birth Centre in Cheltenham and Stroud Post Natal Service will not reopen in full until October at the earliest said bosses.
The announcement by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust means women will have been without the services for more than a year.
The trust said the "regrettable" decision was due to a worsening shortage of staff. The vacancy rate for midwives in Gloucestershire has almost doubled this year - increasing from 7.62% in January to 13.7% in March. It means the service has almost 30 whole time equivalent (WTE) roles to fill.
It said despite "huge efforts" to recruit more midwives, the shortage reflect the national picture and meant continued closures were necessary to ensure one-to-one midwifery care is given to women in labour.
It confirmed its long-term commitment to both units and said its first ever consultant midwife is now in post and working to solve the crisis.
Matt Holdaway, chief nurse at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "There are no long-term plans to close services at Cheltenham or Stroud.
"While the measures that we have taken are far from ideal, they have enabled us to deliver a safe service. The safety of all babies, women and birthing people remains the guiding principle behind these difficult decisions."
The Aveta unit has been shut since last June and will remain closed to labour and births but open to all other services including planned antenatal care.
Stroud's six postnatal care beds have been closed since September and will remain shut. The unit remains open for labour, new births and postnatal provision for six to 12 hours after birth. New mothers with medical needs are being sent to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
In May 2022, the Care Quality Commission rated the service as 'inadequate' and have it a warning notice. One of the key issues identified was not always having enough midwives to care for women and keep them safe. Another inspection is due this year.
Work to transform the Aveta unit into a purpose-built midwifery-led facility is due to start in the autumn and be completed next spring.
Mr Holdaway said: ""This is an incredibly exciting development which will also help us attract and retain midwives.
"The unit will be relocated from the top to the ground floor of St Paul's wing, improving accessibility and patient experience. It will have two birthing rooms, each with birthing pools, communal pantry with associated facilities and community midwives' facilities."
Copyright 2023 Moose Partnership Ltd. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any content is strictly forbidden without prior permission.