Report reveals 'significant issues’ with on-call staff availability at Lancashire maternity unit

A report has found there are ‘significant issues’ with on call staff availability at a maternity unit in Lancashire. in South Cumbria – a report has revealed. The report titled ‘Midwifery Workforce Review’ was prepared for the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay public trust board of directors meeting.

It reveals there are ‘insufficient staff’ to cover the on-call rota at Helme Chase in Kendal. According to the report, this has led to home birth suspension and ‘intermittent’ birth centre closure.

The report states: “During this review significant issues have been identified with the Helme Chase Community/Birth Centre/Home Birth On-call availability. The On-call roster is unable to fulfil the needs of the service due to the staffing model and there are insufficient staff to cover 14 on-call shifts per week. This had led to home birth suspension and intermittent birth centre closure.”


Helme Chase is a midwife-led unit, based at the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal. A midwife-led unit means there are no doctors present, the NHS website states. Women who have been identified with an uncomplicated pregnancy, i.e. they are unlikely to develop any complications during pregnancy, whilst giving birth, or after their baby is born, can choose to give birth at Helme Chase.

Sue Stansfield, Interim Director of Midwifery, UHMBT, said: “The safety of people who use our maternity services and our colleagues is the top priority, and ensuring there are enough colleagues to keep our services safe is a vital part of that. We are experiencing some staffing issues at Helme Chase, so there may be times when it is not possible for women or pregnant people to give birth at the unit, but we are reviewing this on a daily and weekly basis to limit the impact as much as possible.”

The report adds: “A further piece of work is being undertaken to review all the closures/suspensions over the last 2 years.”