Neighbourhood Midwives closure: Mothers-to-be left ‘high and dry’

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Leila Reyburn
Image caption Leila Reyburn is expecting her second child in March but has been left without a midwife

Mothers-to-be have been left “high and dry” after an NHS midwifery service ended with just a week’s notice.

Leila Reyburn, who is seven months pregnant, said she was “devastated” to hear the Neighbourhood Midwives scheme in Waltham Forest, north-east London, will close on Thursday.

The mother of one said her plan to have a home birth may no longer be possible.

NHS England said the 129 women affected would continue to receive “personal and safe” maternity care.

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Neighbourhood Midwives provided an NHS-funded service in Waltham Forest and a private service elsewhere in London and across south-east England.

The service assigns a dedicated midwife to care for women during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period.

Image copyright PA
Image caption One woman described the closure as a “disastrous turn of events”

Neighbourhood Midwives emailed its clients on 24 January to inform them of the upcoming closure.

“I had appointments in for the next week, and that had all vanished overnight,” Ms Reyburn said.

“I don’t say it lightly but I was devastated. Planning things is quite important and suddenly it had all disappeared. It was horrible.”

Other mothers-to-be, including some who were days from their due date, took to social media after the “disastrous turn of events”.

Ms Reyburn was told to refer herself to another NHS Trust in the area.

She said although the midwives on the scheme were “brilliant”, she had been let down by Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Waltham Forest CCG began using Neighbourhood Midwives as an NHS-funded pilot scheme in 2016 as part of the government’s Better Births initiative.

Dr Anwar Khan, clinical chair for the CCG, said despite “positive feedback” about Neighbourhood Midwives, the scheme closed due to “financial reasons”.

“I am hopeful that the midwives currently working for Neighbourhood Midwives will continue to work in our community with local NHS organisations,” he added.

However, Ms Reyburn said the short notice for the scheme ending could have been avoided.

“There should have been plans in place, if the funding was finishing, to look after all of these hundreds of women who’ve just been left in the dark,” she said.

“You can’t just leave women high and dry.”

NHS England said local services had “worked together so that all women affected by this closure are provided with the same level of personal and safe maternity care, ensuring each woman is able to have the birth of their choice”.

Annie Francis, chief executive of Neighbourhood Midwives, said: “This is a very difficult time for everyone and our priority has been, and continues to be, to support the women in the care of our midwives to choose and transfer to alternative midwifery care.”

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