January 10, 2024

Information regarding Friarwood Birth Centre

Len Richards, Chief Executive at Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust, said:

I can confirm that the Wakefield District Health and Care Partnership Committee and the Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust have taken the decision to not reinstate the facility to give birth at the Friarwood Birth Centre at Pontefract Hospital.

The centre at the hospital has not been available for women to give birth for the last four years, when we took the decision to temporarily cease offering births on the grounds of safety due to staff shortages and the fact that women were not choosing to birth there.

When the Friarwood Birth Centre was open, the uptake of the service was lower than intended with an average of 200 births per year. Indeed, more women from East of the Wakefield district chose to use the Maternity Led Unit at Pinderfields Hospital. Our postcode data also demonstrates that the birth centre was mostly used by women living in Pontefract postcode areas, however women from Pontefract gave birth in larger numbers at the birth centre at Pinderfields.

As a consequence – and due to not having enough midwives to safely staff all sites at once – we were often forced to divert midwifery resource to Pinderfields where the vast majority of births take place. This resulted in the Friarwood Birth Centre often being open and shut with little notice.

Opening and closing due to midwife availability is not a sustainable way to manage the service. It results in uncertainty for women planning their birth and is an equally poor experience for the midwives who work there.

We will continue to offer all the pre and post-natal care we provide at the maternity unit at Pontefract. This includes antenatal and postnatal care, obstetric scanning (dating and growth scans), consultant clinics, gestational diabetes services, asthma services (Lead Midwife for Maternal Medicine), stop smoking services, in-patient monitoring and overflow appointments from Pinderfields maternity unit. We also deliver staff training and will be delivering parent education classes.

This is all part of us wanting to give those who are due to give birth in the Pontefract area their ongoing care as close to ho me as possible. And indeed, it’s evidence of our absolute commitment to the further development of our services at Pontefract Hospital, which offers such excellent facilities. Since September 2019 we have invested a total £22.6m in developing the services and facilities we offer from the hospital for our local community.

We understand that this news will be unwelcome for some, but we believe it is the right decision to make in the current circumstances.

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