1 April 2020

Temporary maternity change in response to Covid-19 pressures

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT) has made the decision to temporarily suspend the homebirth service and births at Eastbourne Midwifery Unit (EMU) to ensure a safe service for women and babies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, all deliveries will take place in the obstetric unit at Conquest Hospital, Hastings

A key factor in this decision is that the ambulance service is under considerable pressure and cannot guarantee a timely response to calls for transfer to the maternity unit in an emergency from a homebirth or the EMU. This would present an unacceptable risk to mothers and their babies.

All of our midwives are skilled and experienced in natural birth provision. Conquest Hospital has a water birth room and birth rooms designed for promoting natural births. Conquest hospital obstetric unit has its own dedicated entrance to ensure that mothers do not have to go through the main hospital.

This is temporary suspension is in place from Monday 30th March and is likely to last for at least 12 weeks but will be reviewed at the earliest opportunity.

Emma Chambers, Head of Midwifery at ESHT said “The Trust has made the difficult decision to suspend home births and birthing centre births in response to the escalating Covid-19 pandemic. As Head of Midwifery, my background is working in community and birthing centre roles, so I do completely understand the distress that this decision will cause for many women. South East Coast Ambulance service (SECAmb) have been very clear that they cannot guarantee emergency response in a timely way during this time of increased demand and workforce challenge. Emergencies at home births or birthing centres are unusual, but they do happen. Therefore, I feel suspension of services is the safest option for women, babies and our midwifery team.

“I would like to assure you that this decision was taken after exploration of all other options and in collaboration with service user groups and the local system stakeholders. We will be returning the services to normal as soon as SECAmb are again able to provide support.”