Women are paying private midwives to deliver babies in NHS hospitals as a charity says maternity services are “near to threadbare”.
Ten NHS trusts have signed partnership deals allowing one private company to book rooms in their hospitals and centres for women to give birth helped by a private midwife. The mother then pays the company.
Up to 300 women are estimated to be taking private midwives into NHS hospitals every year. According to midwives, it is often the only way for women to ensure they are cared for by the same midwife throughout and are guaranteed one-to-one attention during labour.
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser for the NCT, a childbirth charity, said she would be surprised if women who could afford it were not considering using private midwives, given the “threadbare” NHS maternity service. “It is very upsetting that there are women who couldn’t possibly pay but who would want this continuity of care on the NHS,” Duff said.
The company Private Midwives has signed deals covering 18 hospitals and birth centres. It pays for the room hire and use of equipment.
Women pay up to £5,000 for care from the same midwife throughout pregnancy, childbirth and for six weeks postnatally.
Tina Perridge, a midwife and director of Neighbourhood Midwives, another company that provides private midwives, said 80-100 women a year who book with it give birth in an NHS hospital.
At Neighbourhood Midwives, the private midwife accompanies the woman into hospital but acts as a professional support while NHS staff remain responsible for the birth.
Perridge said: “The [NHS] midwives in hospital are busy. They may be in and out. The private midwife just doesn’t leave your side.”
Aimee Peters, 40, from south London, booked Perridge when she was pregnant with her son, who was born last September.
Peters, a marketing manager for a bank, was concerned about the number of different NHS staff she was seeing during her pregnancy. At each new appointment staff said they did not have details of her blood group.
Peters said: “I had a number of midwives during my labour. Tina was there throughout. I trusted her completely.”
Wendy Savage, a retired obstetrician and president of Keep Our NHS Public, a campaign group, said: “This shows the underfunding of the NHS is leading to people having to look for alternatives.
“Continuity of carers has always been important to women and it has been ignored by NHS planners.”