NHS ‘postcode lottery’ deprives Leeds mums-to-be of personal care

Caroline Worsley with her daughters, Zahra and Martha. Picture by Tony Johnson

Caroline Worsley with her daughters, Zahra and Martha. Picture by Tony Johnson

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New mums-to-be in Leeds are being denied access to a service which previously provided one-to-one support throughout their pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Hundreds of expectant women from across the city have used the One to One Service – preferring its more personalised care from one named midwife to the usual NHS model which offers less continuity of care. But that choice has now been removed by local healthcare chiefs, who have told mums-to-be they can no longer use it.

However women living in areas including Cheshire, Liverpool and Essex still receive this care for free and campaigners have slammed the healthcare postcode lottery which means the only way Yorkshire women can now access this kind of care – known as “case-loading” – is by hiring an independent midwife, at a cost of around £3,000.

Leeds mum Caroline Worsley felt so traumatised by the care she received during the birth of her first child she needed counselling to recover.

When she became pregnant again she was terrified of having a similar experience, so she was overjoyed when she discovered a service which would see her supported by one named midwife throughout both the pregnancy AND birth – something which rarely happens in modern NHS maternity care.

Her anxieties “evaporated” with the support she received from community-based midwifery service One to One and she found giving birth to second daughter Martha “very healing”.

The former health visitor, from Rawdon, said: “It was completely life-changing. The single most empowering experience of my life and I wouldn’t have it without One to One.”

Hundreds of Leeds women have opted for the service since 2013 – preferring it to the NHS model, which offers less continuity of care.

One to One users also receive more antenatal and postnatal home visits, the service is accessible seven days a week and they are offered free hypnobirthing sessions – which would usually cost up to £450.

The independent organisation was previously accessed through self and GP referrals and cost the NHS the same as using its own staff. However NHS England issued new guidelines in January, stating patients could only choose from local services commissioned by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Because the service has not been commissioned by Leeds CCGs, local mums-to-be have been told it is no longer an option for them.

However it is commissioned in areas including Liverpool and Warrington and campaigners have slammed the postcode lottery which means the only way Yorkshire women can now access this kind of care – known as “caseloading” – is by hiring an independent midwife, at a cost of around £3,000.

A spokeswoman for NHS Maternity Services in Leeds said: “Work is underway between commissioners and providers to ensure all women have personalised care.

“We do not commission or approve referrals to services not on the NHS Leeds CCGs funded contract list. Such services are not subject to local contracting or performance management and do not have established, safe routes into acute maternity care or obstetrics or provide integrated links for those with complex care needs.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Maternity Services in Leeds said: “Work is underway between commissioners and providers to ensure all women have personalised care.

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