New pop-up birthing unit to get 12-month trial

Date published: 30 October 2019


Rochdale is to trial a new ‘pop-up birthing centre’ for 12 months.

The borough maternity unit was controversially closed eight years ago and expectant mums have since had to travel to Oldham to give birth.

Now women with a low-risk pregnancy will have the option of using the new facility, which will be based at Rochdale Infirmary.

The centre – which will not have a birthing pool – is intended to give an opportunity to women who would ideally choose a home birth, but their circumstances do not allow for it.

The Integrated Commisioning Board gave the nod for the year-long pilot at a meeting on Tuesday 29 October following the recommendation of the Better Births review and years of campaigning by Friends of Rochdale Maternity Unit (FRMU).

Mums-to-be will meet an on-call midwife at the centre – which only has capacity for one birth at a time – and return home within three hours of giving birth.

Those who need further care will be transferred to the Royal Oldham Hospital.

Councillor Carol Wardle said: “It’s so badly wanted by women in the community. If they already have a large family there’s not really the possibility of giving birth at home without interruption.

“This way they get the proper care and are home again very quickly.”

While it means more women will get care closer to home – the move does not return full maternity services to the borough.

Dr Aggy York told the meeting it was vitally important this was made clear to the public.

She said: “The biggest concern from the point of view of clinicians is that patients might get the wrong message out that Rochdale is open for anybody to turn up. 

“It should really be stressed that it would be for ladies who have rang in advance and arranged to meet a midwife there, it would be open specifically for that woman in labour and closed within three hours of her giving birth.

“There would have to be very rigorous community engagement – we don’t want ladies turning up assuming they can just go and deliver there.”

She said there has also been assurances from the ambulance service that – in the case of an emergency – neither mum or baby would be presumed to be in a ‘place of safety’ and treated as a lesser priority.

The cost of the proposed pop-up birthing unit will be covered within the existing maternity budget.

However, there would be an additional cost should the 12-month assessment period find there is a need for a birthing pool at the centre.

Pennine Acute is the first trust in Greater Manchester to offer a pop-up birthing centre and the second in the north west region.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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