University Hospital Lewisham (UHL) has been named a ‘beacon site’ by the Midwifery Unit Network (MUNet) for its midwife-led birth centre. MUNet is a leading UK initiative committed to women having positive birth experiences.
UHL is one of only three beacon sites in England selected by an expert professional advisory board and researchers at City, University of London. The other beacon sites are Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.
The criteria for being selected as a beacon site included a high percentage of births taking place in the birth centre, which for UHL in 2016 was 18.8 percent, compared with a national average for England of around 14%. Other criteria were: a clear philosophy of care consistent with attention to physical, social and psychological needs; midwifery development and multi-disciplinary learning; support for research and audit; strategies for community involvement; clear communication about the service, and evidence of sharing learning with other maternity services.
Helen Knower, director of midwifery at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said: “Research shows that, for women with a low-risk pregnancy, midwife-led care is best. Our birth centres provide a relaxed, home-like environment for pregnant women and their partners and are staffed entirely by midwives. Being named a beacon site by such a prestigious organisation as MUNet is a huge achievement – I am so proud of our wonderful maternity staff.”
Each birthing room in the Trust’s birth centres has an en-suite bathroom, double bed and flat-screen TV, as well as natural birthing aids such as a stool, sling and birthing balls. Some also have birthing pools. All forms of pain relief are available, apart from epidurals. Partners are welcome to stay, and the delivery suites are close by for women who need additional support during labour.
Mary Newburn, Research Fellow at City, University of London, co-founder of Midwifery Unit Network, and member of the NHS England Stakeholder Council advising on the implementation of Better Births, said: “Birth centres develop in different ways, but the essence of what they are about is having respect for the woman’s autonomy and right to choose, as well as making sure every woman gets emotional support and encouragement, and the information she needs.”