Positive News for Homebirth in Hackney

Following a petition signed by over 1000 I’m pleased to report some positive news about homebirth in Hackney.
Due to the strength of feeling and sheer volume of responses to the issue prompted a meeting on Tuesday 18th December between Joan Douglas (Head of Midwifery at Homerton), Daniel Waldron (Divisional Operations Director), myself, Elizabeth Prochaska (Hackney resident, Homerton volunteer, barrister) and Karen Elmes (recent home birth team user).
We presented the Homerton team with the petition of over 1000 signatures and a selection of the comments that we have received in support and praise of the home birth service in Hackney.
The group representing the petitioners were able to communicate that:
– the nature of the caseloading service meant that women were directly affected when changes were made and that the Trust had a responsibility to these women
– that the Homerton home birth team were hugely popular with the local community and that changes to the model were inevitably going to be met with concern
– that the service the home birth team provide was seen by many, including other Trusts and midwives, as setting a gold-standard for maternity provision
– that we felt the service should be celebrated, promoted and the comments received over the past weeks used as positive communications for the Trust
– that many women were unhappy to be parted from their midwife, particularly those in the final trimester of pregnancy and would be keen to retain her care
– that there is keen interest, investment and commitment to protecting and expanding home birth provision in the area
– that the caseloading element of the service is what women are most passionate about
The Homerton team were able to clarify that:
– the team was being now being reduced to five not four members as the midwife who has elected to go on secondment will be replaced
– that this reduction was based on a lower home birth rate and smaller caseload of late
– that increased demand for the service would lead to an increase in midwife provision once again
– that they were committed to and passionate about providing a viable home birth service in Hackney and Waltham Forest
At the end of the meeting the group had reached a consensus as to the way forwards. Those representing Homerton University Hospital NHS trust committed to all three of the following key action points that we asked of them:
1. That they would take on board the degree of distress at the decision, the lack of stakeholder involvement in this decision and lack of communication around it. They had learnt from this process and would take these lessons on board in future when considering proposals which might impact on service users.  They would also seek service user participation in any future decision making process.
2. That they would commit to producing an in-depth strategy for the provision and promotion of home birth in the Trust’s catchment area. That they would request the involvement of the MSLC (Maternity Services Liaison Committee) with this process, key members of the midwifery team, volunteers, service-users and representatives from the petitioners in devising and implementing this strategy. This strategy will be entirely collaborative and will seek to widen access to, knowledge of and uptake of home birth in the area.
3. That they would work with those women, in the last two months of their pregnancy, who have been directly affected by the rotation of a midwife away from the team. The midwife will continue to be part of the homebirth on call rota during this period.
Though this has been a difficult and stressful time for many, those at the meeting felt that real progress and positive change could come out of it. We will of course keep you updated about how this progresses and ensure you have the chance to participate in developing and delivering the new home birth strategy.
In the meantime I will be suspending the petition and thanking you all for making this possible.
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