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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 11:45 GMT
Midwife units 'not second class'
Chloe McIver
Chloe McIver was born with the umbilical cord around her neck
A sheriff who said women in areas served by midwife-led maternity units were getting a second-class service has been told to go to see them in action.

Sheriff John Herald made his comments after a fatal accident inquiry into the death of baby girl in Greenock.

Gillian Lenaghan, national officer of the Royal College of Midwives, said the sheriff's opinion may have been "coloured" by a political campaign.

She said there were very successful community midwife units in Scotland.

The inquiry heard that Jane Watt had been due to give birth at Paisley's consultant-led unit.

But with the baby's birth imminent, she was taken to her local maternity unit at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock, which had become a midwife-only centre.

We would not consider a midwife-led unit as a downgrading of a service
Gillian Lenaghan
Royal College of Midwives

Her daughter Chloe McIver was born with the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck and died early the next morning.

Although he ruled that the baby's death had been inevitable, Sheriff Herald said it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that women in areas with midwife-only units were getting an inferior service.

The sheriff voiced "concern" that neither Chloe nor her parents saw a senior clinician over the 22-hour period between her birth and death.

Services centralised

Health boards across Scotland have been centralising consultant services and changing many maternity units to midwife-led services.

The North Action Group is fighting to block plans to scrap the consultant-led service in Caithness.

Campaigner Lynn Duncan said: "The midwives are fantastic, however, their licence only allows them to perform up to a certain level and anything after that requires consultant intervention and where we are that's two hours away.

Caithness General Hospital
Caithness General, which has been at the centre of a protest

"In this day and age all deliveries should be safe and if you require medical intervention you should not have to be made to wait two hours in what could be a life or death situation in five minutes."

Ms Lenaghan said that a "one size fits all" approach to maternity services would not work.

She said: "You can't transpose something that happens in the Central Belt perhaps to a wider geographical region."

However, she added: "We would not consider a midwife-led unit as a downgrading of a service."

Insufficient staff

Ms Lenaghan said women chose to deliver in midwife-led units and they were entitled to opt for consultant-led services if they wanted.

"Women, when they select to deliver in this way, know what their options are.

"There is no way that you could have sustained a fully operating obstetric unit in all these areas who have converted to community maternity units because there simply is not the medical staff nor the deliveries to support that."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
A midwives' leader defends the service changes



SEE ALSO:
Sheriff's worry after baby death
02 Nov 05 |  Scotland
Women seek greater baby units say
24 Aug 05 |  Scotland
Health board in child unit u-turn
17 Aug 05 |  Scotland
Midwives deliver blow to campaign
05 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Maternity unit sacks consultants
11 Aug 04 |  Scotland


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