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More mothers are using Devon’s award-winning community birthing service


A nurse holding a babyMore Devon mothers are choosing to give birth at community hospitals or at home.


NHS figures show the number of women giving birthing at Devon’s award-winning community birthing services has gone up by eight per cent in the last year.


This follows changes made in 2010 to the way maternity services were organised for women giving birth at home and at the community birthing units in Honiton, Okehampton and Tiverton.


As part of the changes new mothers have midwifery support in the community, with midwives available on call at night, so they are also available where needed, either at hospital or in the home. It gives them greater choice over where they want to give birth.


Overnight stays at the three community birthing units are available for women who have had their baby. They are also available for women who have delivered at the RD&E Hospital and are medically fit, but require additional support, such as breastfeeding their baby.


The units, which are run by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust’s (RD&E) Centre for Women’s Health, achieved international recognition last year with the prestigious UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Baby Friendly Award.


This means mothers who gave birth in the community get the same level of breastfeeding support as those in the acute hospital.


Tracey Reeves, Associate Director of Midwifery and Patient Care, at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, said:


“We have actively supported and developed the service since the transfer in 2010. The maternity support worker role has been introduced in each of the birth units, supported by a comprehensive training package, ensuring that women who need an overnight stay receive one.

The midwifery staff have been supported and developed to enhance their clinical skills, resulting in the attainment of the Baby Friendly award and an increasing number of women birthing in the units.”

Dr Simon Kerr, vice chair of the eastern locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, said:


“Back in 2010 parents across Exeter, East and Mid Devon gave their views about how they wanted local midwifery services to develop, in particular the birthing units at Honiton, Okehampton and Tiverton hospitals.


“One of the suggestions by the group of parents was a service where an overnight support worker would be available for mothers at the maternity units in Honiton, Okehampton and Tiverton when the midwife recommended an overnight stay was clinically appropriate.

“NHS Devon and the RD&E worked closely to develop this service which also means midwives are freed up from staying in the units overnight. This will allow them to use their specialist skills to help mothers in their own homes.”


A focus group involving parents, midwives, children’s centres, NHS commissioners and LINk Devon looked at parents’ experiences of the service to ensure local services met their needs.


Alison Kettlewell, a member of the focus group, who also campaigned to maintain the overnight stays in the units, said: “I feel reassured that the maternity service at these units remains exemplary.

“I am glad that mothers can feel comfortable in the knowledge that, as a result of the campaign, the units remain open over-night with maternity support workers on duty and midwives on call.”


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