The Northern Trust confirmed that it has taken the decision to temporarily suspend bookings for its Homebirth Service.
Safety for homebirth requires the availability of skilled experienced midwifery staffing and rapid paramedic ambulance transfer facilities, when needed.
The Trust’s most recent communication with NIAS confirms that its service is currently experiencing extreme pressures due to the volume of calls and delays at Emergency Departments and that whilst all calls are triaged, there may a delay to NIAS response times and an immediate response cannot be guaranteed, although NIAS will always seek to provide the most immediate response possible to the most clinically urgent calls.
The impact of a delay in an emergency response during a homebirth could have devastating consequences. Also at present, midwifery staffing levels are challenging due to community transmission levels and staff needing to self-isolate therefore it is in the interests of the safety and wellbeing of women and their babies that this decision is being taken.
This will be reviewed on a weekly basis and the service will be reinstated as soon as it is safe to do so.
The reasons for this temporary suspension will also be discussed with women who have already booked for the Homebirth Service and they will be provided with all information for their new birthing plan.
Additional Background Information
Throughput the pandemic, Northern Trust maternity services have strived to continue to provide choice of place of birth for women using a staged approach based on the RCM/RCOG Guidance for provision of midwife-led settings and home birth in the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic guidance July 2020, when responding to emerging issues with staff absence, volume of homebirth requests and other service pressures.
As part of this guidance, the maternity service has maintained regular communication with Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS).
As per RCM/ RCOG guidance, the fact that an immediate ambulance response cannot be guaranteed now triggers the maternity service to move to temporary discontinuation of homebirth service provision in NHSCT (due to the stated condition ‘once the ambulance service is unable to support category 1 emergency calls without severe delays.’