How services are currently delivered in South Tyneside and Sunderland
Our local community can access both maternity and women’s healthcare services at both hospital sites and around 4,500 babies are born every year (1,300 at South Tyneside and 3,200 at Sunderland).
There are many areas of crossover in maternity, women’s services, children and young people’s healthcare services and special care baby services so doctors and nurses often work across the different clinical areas. Due to this shared medical team and the interdependence of both maternity and Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), SCBU services are being considered as part of the proposed maternity and gynaecology service changes.
The consultation covers the hospital-based inpatient aspects of the services. Community based services will remain unchanged in South Tyneside and Sunderland.
The maternity (obstetrics) services currently on offer in South Tyneside and Sunderland include:
- midwifery appointments
- ultrasound scans
- appointments with a consultant if there are any risk factors
- maternity (obstetric) unit
- midwifery-led care
- home birth
- elective surgery or emergency caesarean
- any inpatient stay following birth including neonatal or Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU)
- visits at home from a midwife or health visitor
Why do maternity (obstetrics) and women’s healthcare (gynaecology) services need to change?
The review of maternity and women’s healthcare (gynaecology) services in South Tyneside and Sunderland is being driven by pressures across the service in both areas.
The challenges we face include:
- a shortage of senior doctors to meet required staffing levels
- an over-reliance on temporary staff to fill the gaps – this lack of consistency can prevent long-term quality improvement
- meeting national standards for quality of care
- special care baby unit staffing pressures that can limit the number of babies that can be cared for locally
- inability to increase the availability of senior medical cover and senior medical decision-makers as they are spread across two sites
- making further clinical quality improvements in line with national standards
These factors combined mean we cannot always offer people the birth experience they have chosen in their birth plan. It also increases the potential of exposing mothers to clinical risks. Whilst we work hard to manage the safety of the service day-to-day if we make changes now, we can ensure a better, safer service for every single patient in the longer term.
National recommendations suggest that hospital maternity providers and local commissioners work together across populations of at least 500,000 in order to ensure services are safe and fit for the future. Combining resources across South Tyneside and Sunderland will help us achieve this.
Useful website links
National Maternity Strategy, NHS England, 2016: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2016/02/maternity-review-2/
‘Safer Childbirth: Minimum Standards for the Organisation and Delivery of Care in Labour’, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, RC of Midwives, RC of Anaesthetists and RC of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2007: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2016/02/maternity-review-2/