A NEW midwife-led maternity unit is to be set up at Worcestershire Royal Hospital following a £500,000 grant from the Department of Health.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, the organisation running the Royal as well as Kidderminster Hospital and Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital, was awarded the cash this week which will be used to set up a new midwife-led unit in order to give new mothers a choice of care.

The decision comes just a month after a long-awaited review of hospital services recommended consultant-led maternity services should be centralised at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, while a stand-along midwifery centre is set up in the north of the county.

Although concerns had been raised that the plans would lead to the closure of the A&E department at the Alex Hospital, the independent review did not recommend this idea should be followed, saying instead the most serious emergency cases should be centralised in Worcester.

Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Redditch Rebecca Blake said she was shocked at hearing the news.

"Last month we learn that if Redditch mums want a consultant led birth they are expected to travel to Worcester," she said.

"This month we learn that mums in the south of the county not only have the choice of consultant led births at their local hospital, but they will soon have an additional £500,000 midwifery-led unit at their local hospital."

"I want all mums to have these choices, however it clearly does not extend to the north of the county."

She added: "I want to know whether the acute trust applied for a midwifery led unit for Redditch as well as Worcester and if not, why not. Or, did the Government refuse Redditch, preferring to fund Worcester.

"This constant inequality for Redditch at the hands of decision makers must be fought against. And I will continue to fight."

The trust’s chief executive Penny Venables said: “Two years ago the department of health asked all organisations to put in business cases to deliver and develop midwife-led care.

“We were turned down then but when the department asked for more submissions we re-submitted the same bid and this time they gave it to us.

“We are one of the few areas in the country not to have a midwife-led unit. The whole push is to normalise deliveries, reducing rates of things like caesarean being carried out through choice rather than need."

She said the next stage was to establish how many people would be in favour of setting up such a unit.

“It will be important to see how many people are in favour,” she said.

“It might be that everyone goes ‘no thanks, I’ll go to an obstetrician’. We’ve only just got the letter saying we’ve got the money – we’re now at the planning stage.”