Changes to community maternity services agreed as ICB continues to respond to current coronavirus challenge

Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Integrated Care Board has today agreed a set of recommendations that will maintain the health and wellbeing of mums-to-be during the current coronavirus outbreak.

The changes, which were agreed at an extraordinary public meeting on Thursday 30 April, will ensure families are kept safe at this current time, and that staff are able to use their skills in the right places to support the changing needs and wishes of women and families, such as the recent increase in women choosing to have their baby at home.

Under the new proposals, some of the previously-agreed changes to maternity services, which had been approved following an extensive public consultation throughout 2018 and 2019, will be temporarily amended or suspended.

Birthing units at Paulton and Trowbridge Freestanding Midwifery Units (FMUs) will now remain open until Monday 1 June, instead of closing at the beginning of May, which had been agreed by the ICB’s Governing Body in January.

This will allow more time for local families and staff to prepare for the closure, as ongoing preparatory work had to be paused because of coronavirus.

Postnatal beds at Chippenham Birthing Centre (FMU) and Paulton FMU will close on Monday 4 May to reduce the time spent by families in hospital during the pandemic.

While the postnatal beds in Paulton had been due to close this year, the beds in Chippenham had been expected to remain open until the spring of 2021.
Essential postnatal support will still be available to mums and families through online video calls or, where required, face-to-face appointments.

Elsewhere, both Chippenham and Paulton FMUs will adopt an overnight open-on-demand system.

This means the units will no longer be fully staffed throughout the night and will instead only open when midwives are needed to support a birth, which is the model currently used at the neighbouring birthing centres in Trowbridge and Frome.

Staff previously based at the centres overnight will be redeployed to support midwifery colleagues to deliver maternity services that meet the changing needs and wishes of women at this time.

Lucy Baker, Director of Service Delivery, said: “It’s essential we do whatever we can to keep people safe at this current time, and we firmly believe the changes being introduced will allow us to do this.

“We also know mums may be feeling worried by what’s going on at the moment, but we want to reiterate our commitment to them and their baby, which is why we are making more and more of our postnatal and antenatal support available digitally, through online platforms such as WhatsApp, FaceTime and Attend Anywhere.”

The ICB will monitor the impact of the changes to the postnatal beds at Chippenham, as well as the new overnight staffing arrangements at Chippenham and Paulton, over the coming weeks and a summary report will be presented to the Governing Body at its meeting in July.

Any families who are concerned about coronavirus, or the impact that these changes may have on their birthing plans, are encouraged to speak to their midwife as soon as possible.

Papers from the Governing Body meeting are available to read online at