Mothers-to-be have been left “high and dry” after an NHS midwifery service ended with just a week’s notice

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The Neighbourhood Midwives scheme in Waltham Forest, north-east London, will close on Thursday 7 February 2019.

In the wake of this move, planned home births may no longer be possible. Although the local NHS service said all women affected would continue to receive “personal and safe” maternity care, NHS England refused to confirm how many women were affected by the closure.

Neighbourhood Midwives provided an NHS-funded service in Waltham Forest and a private service elsewhere in London and across south-east England.

The service assigns a dedicated midwife to care for women during pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period. Neighbourhood Midwives sent an email to people on 24 January to inform them of the upcoming closure. Booked, planned appointments vanished overnight and mothers to be took to social media to complain after the “disastrous turn of events”.

Mothers to be were told to refer themselves to another NHS Trust in the area. One mother said that although the midwives on the scheme were “brilliant”, she had been let down by Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Waltham Forest CCG began using Neighbourhood Midwives as an NHS-funded pilot scheme in 2016 as part of the government’s Better Births initiative.

But the CCG said on its website the service would end after problems “co-ordinating business planning and the commissioning timetable”.

NHS England said local services had “worked together so that all women affected by this closure are provided with the same level of personal and safe maternity care, ensuring each woman is able to have the birth of their choice”.

Neighbourhood Midwives did not provide a comment.

Amanda Cavanagh, a medical negligence specialist at Ashtons Legal, says: “These mothers have been badly let down by this almost instantaneous shutdown. Women, who are potentially on the brink of giving birth with specific birth plans in place, are now in the position of having to refer themselves to another birthing unit without the support and planning in place, despite what NHS England have said it is unlikely that the birth of their choice will be accommodated”.

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