RVI recruits 50 new midwives in plan to reopen Newcastle birthing centre hit by staffing shortages

The birthing centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary has been closed due to staffing shortages
The birthing centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary has been closed due to staffing shortages -Credit:Chronicle

Hospital chiefs in Newcastle have vowed to give expectant mums “confidence” in a birthing centre hit by staffing shortages.

The Newcastle Birthing Centre at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) has been temporarily shut over recent months, but bosses now hope that the hiring of 50 new midwives will allow it to reopen later this year. While the city centre hospital’s delivery suite has remained open for new mothers to give birth in, councillors were told last week that the separate, midwife-led birthing centre in the RVI’s Leazes Wing has been “consistently” closed due to a lack of sufficient staff.

Rob Harrison, the Newcastle Hospitals trust’s new managing director, said that he wanted to see the facility “open consistently and staffed properly this year” as a key priority as city health leaders try to deliver major improvements in the wake of a downgrading by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) earlier this year. He told Newcastle City Council’s health scrutiny committee: “We need to have confidence that new mums in the area can come to Newcastle Hospitals to have their babies.”

A spokesperson for the trust has now confirmed that there are plans to reopen the birthing centre, which has 12 birthing rooms including five with pools, once a raft of new midwives have started work. They were unable to confirm for exactly how long the birthing centre had been closed but said that new mothers had still been able to give birth at the RVI, rather than being forced to use other hospitals.

In a statement released on its website on Tuesday, Newcastle Hospitals said: “As you may know the Newcastle Birth Centre and our home birth service have been temporarily closed for some time due to staffing pressures. Our delivery suite remains open at all times and our team are doing all they can to meet families wishes and preferences for their birthing environment.

“We have been working hard to address our workforce issues, and we have been able to recruit 50 new midwives who have recently joined us or are about to join the trust. Around 20 of these are student midwives, who will join us when they qualify in September.

“We are now supporting and training those staff so that they are able to play a full role in the team and we are working towards reopening our Birth Centre later this year. We are also supporting our community midwives in preparation for the planned re-introduction of our home birth service from June 2024. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.”