Page last updated at 07:40 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 08:40 UK

Mothers 'to be sent home early'

By Marie-Louise Connolly
BBC NI health correspondent

Some new mothers are being sent home within six hours of giving birth
Some new mothers are being sent home within six hours of giving birth

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust plans to send new mothers home between six and 12 hours after giving birth, in an attempt to save money.

A patient liaison group at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital said it believed there were also plans to close a ward with the loss of up to 20 beds.

It is understood patients would only be sent home early if they had undergone a normal delivery.

A spokesperson for the Royal College of Midwives called the plan "shocking".

Plans by the Department of Health to save money means every department within the Royal Victoria Hospital has to make cuts.

NI HEALTH CUTS OVERVIEW
The NI Department of Health must make £700m efficiency savings over three years to meet government spending targets
In addition, the five NI health trusts face a combined end-of-year deficit of £76m
Last month, the Belfast Trust temporarily suspended the practice of paying private clinics to carry out NHS operations which had helped to reduce waiting lists
The Belfast Trust also said it planned to cut all staff overtime and ban the use of agency nurses

While there is no medical reason for every mother to be kept in hospital, many health professionals argue that first time mothers do need assistance with breast feeding and parenting skills.

Early release has already been implemented in Craigavon Area Hospital.

Patients there are given the choice whether to go home or to care for their new baby in the hospital's labour ward.

A spokesperson for the Belfast Trust said that there was no plans to close a ward at this stage.

However, the spokesperson added that it was sharing ideas about how it can modernise the service, including the early transfer of patients to community-based midwives.

Joy Poots from the The Royal Maternity and Jubilee Liaison Committee said women needed to rest and recuperate after giving birth.

It will not be an issue that some poor woman will be faced in the delivery suite with the decision you're going home in six hours
Liz Bannon

"It's really shocking," she said.

"While we know some women number do choose to go straight home from the labour ward most women feel they would like to lie down and rest after giving birth and recuperate before they elect to go home."

However, the co-director of Maternity and Women's Services at the Belfast Trust, Liz Bannon, said they were increasing choice for women and would be enhancing community-based midwifery services.

"The decision about the length of stay is a decision that will probably be made as the woman goes through her pregnancy, deciding what would suit her and her home environment, also her social environment issues like psychological and physical well being," she said.

"It will not be an issue that some poor woman will be faced in the delivery suite with the decision 'you're going home in six hours'."



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SEE ALSO
Health trusts run up 76m deficit
25 Sep 09 |  Northern Ireland
Trust suspends private referrals
24 Sep 09 |  Northern Ireland
Strike warning over hospital cuts
22 Sep 09 |  Northern Ireland

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