Maternity unit will close as new hospital opens

North Tyneside General Hospital at North Shields.
North Tyneside General Hospital at North Shields.

Maternity services are to be axed at North Tyneside General Hospital next year following a decision by health chiefs.

Officials at the NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group’s Council of Practices approved the decision at a meeting today (Wednesday) to close the midwifery-led unit at Rake Lane once the new emergency care hospital opens in Cramlington in 2015.

The decision means that not only will there be no more births at North Tyneside General Hospital but also no inpatient postnatal care for mothers who had given birth at another hospital.

Expectant mothers in North Tyneside will now be given the choice to give birth at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle or the new Cramlington hospital, with both having a midwifery-led unit and a medical-led unit.

Dr Ruth Evans, a North Tyneside GP and a clinical director of NHS North Tyneside CCG, said: “We have given very careful consideration to all of the feedback we received before making our decision.

“We have a great opportunity now to progress discussions with both foundation trusts to make sure that women continue to receive the best possible care at all stages of their pregnancy.”

Currently, only ‘low-risk’ mothers give birth at North Tyneside General Hospital, which has resulted in an average of four births a week at the unit.

A three-month consultation took place from December to gauge local opinion.

Members of the CCG’s governing body were told at a meeting on Tuesday there were two key issues raised during the consultation – the need for postnatal care and transport links to the new hospital in Cramlington.

Dr Evans said mothers were most concerned about the loss of postnatal care which gave them confidence and support to breastfeed and ask questions.

She said: “As we’ve heard about natal care we’ve realised we’ve got work to do on this.

“That work has begun. We want to offer something that is really excellent for the women of North Tyneside.

“This is postnatal care which is really valued by a small number of women.

“We want to do something which really promotes strong postnatal care for the majority of women.”

The consultation also showed support for the proposals from midwives at North Tyneside General.

Dr Evans said: “The strong message from midwives at the free-standing unit is they want to provide good care. Although they are very pleased with the care they provide, they are noticing their numbers are going down and quite supportive of this change.”

She added: “I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this consultation.

“We have had some very constructive discussions and we now need to give careful consideration to all of the feedback we received so that we can ensure local women receive the best and safest possible maternity care.”