TV midwives launch new home birth equipment for their real life counterparts

Linda Bassett and Leonie Elliott at the launch. Pic: Judy Ledger

A trial of new standardised bags for midwifes carrying out home deliveries has been launched at Barts Health NHS Trust.

The rucksacks, with the option of wheels contain all the necessary equipment included for home and hospital births.

Linda Bassett and Leonie Elliott, who play the roles of Nurse Phyllis Crane and Nurse Lucille Anderson in the popular BBC1 Sunday evening series Call The Midwife, which is set in the East End, took part in the launch at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to help promote the trial in order to gain the involvement of more trusts across the country.

Associate Director of Midwifery and Gynaecology at The Royal London Hospital, Alison Herron, said: “It was a pleasure to discuss with the actors the difference that we hope the bags will make to midwives across the country.”

“It’s important we support our midwives to do their very best. We take great pride in the success of our Tower Hamlets home birth team, who after just one year have already helped more than 37 women to give birth in the comfort of their own home.”

Alison Herron with Leonie Elliott and Linda Bassett. Pic: Judy Ledger

The trial is set to start in April and is the first of its kind, lead by Baby Lifeline: The Mother and Baby Charity. The aim of the trial is to employ standardisation across the country as to the equipment and bag provided to community midwives from their individual trusts, similar to that of paramedics and other healthcare professionals.

Judy Ledger, Founder and Chief Executive of Baby Lifeline said: “We had a fantastic launch with two Call The Midwife actresses who were wonderful, and all the midwives were over the moon. There has been so much interest across the country agreeing that what’s needed is proper standardisation. The paramedics have got it and so the midwives should have it.”

Baby Lifeline conducted a survey that showed 35% of midwives had self-funded equipment bags, and 30% felt that the bag they used was not safe. A further 40% told Baby Lifeline that they did not believe their bag adequately met their needs.

Following funding from the closure of The Fawsley Birth Centre, the charity worked with an expert panel of consultant midwives, paramedics and other health professionals from across the country to develop a list of contents approved by all.

They also developed a process that will be implemented in the trial in which the Trusts replenish and maintain the bags to ensure the equipment and supplies are kept up to date, particularly in areas with lower levels of home births.

The new community midwives bag. Pic: Judy Ledger

The bags are set to be trialled across seven Trusts from around the country, including Barts Health NHS Trust, which has five maternity centres in East London, which include The Royal London Hospital, Mile End Hospital and The Barkantine Birth Centre. In total, 42 bags will be distributed to frontline midwives.

Ledger said: “Everything in that bag is there, ready for a normal birth or emergency, such as setting up a drip or opening an airway, so that you can be confident that every time that midwife has to go out, she’s got everything she needs and it s all up to date and well maintained. Nobody’s actually done this – ever.”

Just over 1 in 50 women choose to give birth at home in the UK. The increased risk of death or life altering conditions for a woman’s first baby is around 5 in 1,000 if delivered at home, compared to 9 in 1,000 if the baby is delivered in hospital. These bags could contribute to lowering the number of women who are transferred to hospital when choosing to have their first baby at home, currently at 45%.

Ledger said: “Its really just equipping midwives, as they should be, in fairness to them, so they’re not turning up at a home delivery with half the stuff they need. I think that we are now being listened to. We’ve always said that what’s needed is support from the professionals and training across the board. It’s highly important that trusts work with each other.”

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