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Coronavirus fears shut New Forest Birth Centre until January

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The New Forest Birth Centre is at Ashurst Hospital
The New Forest Birth Centre is at Ashurst Hospital

A BIRTHING centre in Ashurst has temporarily closed because of fears over unsafe staffing levels due to the pandemic.

The New Forest Birth Centre, which is midwife-led, will shut until January 2021 when the decision will be reviewed by University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust which runs it.

However, the trust stressed the change will not affect antenatal and post-natal services which will continue to run at the unit.

A spokesperson said there were now fewer midwives and support staff at the facility.

“Having reviewed our current and projected staffing levels over the next few months, we have concluded that we would not be able to adequately staff the centre,” she said.

“The safety of our staff is also paramount and, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of our colleagues have been unable to return to their substantive roles.

“The decision to temporarily close the New Forest Birth Centre has been taken to ensure we can continue to provide the safest possible care for our families.”

Staff will be transferred to the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton and home birth services.

On its Facebook page, the trust assured expectant mothers planning to have their babies at the New Forest centre they could discuss alternatives including the midwife-led Broadlands Birth Centre within Princess Anne and home births with their midwives.

Some people lamented the decision on social media, with one saying: “These homely regional units are the perfect place for first-time mums to receive the support they need during the first few hours after birth, as they learn to breastfeed if they choose to. No one has the time in large maternity hospitals.”

Another wrote: “So sad. I had both my children at the New Forest Birth Centre and have recommended it to all my friends ever since. Such a lovely place, and the care was just faultless.”

The New Forest Birth Centre opened in September 2008 and is for women assessed as low-risk who want natural births. Facilities include birthing pools and support with breastfeeding and parenting.

The centre is held in high regard in the area, and seeks to offer a calm, home-from-home environment, with views across the New Forest.

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