A more integrated approach to maternity will be introduced at Bath's Royal United Hospital, as well as in the five community hospitals in Wiltshire and Somerset, where the RUH will now be running maternity services as from today.
Maternity services have been transferred back into the hands of the RUH – after 22 years of the services being run by other NHS providers.
Thousands of babies are born at the RUH every year, but the trust has not run maternity services at the hospital since 1992. Following a successful bid at the start of the year, the RUH is now contracted to run maternity services for the next three years.
Staff at the RUH and at the birthing centres in Frome, Trowbridge, Chippenham, Paulton and Shepton Mallet have worked hard together to ensure a smooth handover from Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who previously ran the service, the hospital said in a statement.
Whilst expectant mothers may not have noticed, behind the scenes there has been a great deal of activity including transferring staff into the employ of the RUH, putting new policies in place, setting up computer systems, ordering new uniforms, re-branding documents and updating websites.
Dr Bernie Marden, consultant paediatrician and head of the newly-formed Women and Children’s Division at the RUH, said: “The RUH is all about family and patient-centred care, and we believe that we will now be able to look after mothers and babies together much more effectively.
“Many of the processes involved in looking after patients have been streamlined as a result of our running the services.
"For example, babies born in the RUH’s Princess Anne Wing who needed to be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit used to require an inter-hospital transfer because they were moving from one trust to another. That is no longer the case.
“I am passionate about what can be achieved when we put the needs of patients and their families at the heart of what we do.
"We are confident that we can give women and their families meaningful maternity choices by designing and delivering services that are truly joined up, modern and accessible.”
Dr Marden added that the RUH will be working closely with parents and other stakeholders to develop the service in the near future.