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Refurbished Birth Centre

The newly refurbished birthing rooms at Crowborough Birth Centre have been officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Friends of Crowborough Hospital donated £125,000 to modernise the 21 year old birth centre and bring it up to-date as a comfortable, homely and relaxing place of birth.

Melody Grove, “Call the Midwife” actress, was warmly welcomed to Crowborough Birth Centre by more than 50 mums, midwives and supporters who were all given the opportunity to view the newly decorated rooms and facilities last Friday (10th May). Melody had her second baby Fergus with her who had been born at the Birth Centre just earlier this year.

Melody was welcomed by Karen Leeson (Birth Centre Manager), Miles Scott (Chief Executive, Maidstone Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust) and Dr Kate Stokes (President, Friends of Crowborough Hospital).

Crowborough Birth Centre was an early pioneer midwife-led birth centre started in 1997, and while modern at the time, new features that have made birth centres popular choices for mothers have since been developed.

The birthing rooms project was the result of partnership between Maidstone Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (who manage the centre) and the Friends of Crowborough Hospital. The new equipment included a birthing pool, soft lighting, water proof speakers to play a women’s own music, kneeling mats, bean bags and large squashy exercise balls. Large scenic walls murals and pot plants were also provided and these help to transform the rooms from having a rather ‘clinical’ feel to a warm homely environment conducive to having a straight-forward birth that women hope for.

Melody Grove spoke from her own experience:

What women need in labour is a calm place with staff who are experts to guide her to develop her own confidence during labour and birth. Afterwards she needed an ‘angel’ to clean her up, help shower, a clean bed, a cup of tea, and help to start feeding. She found exactly that at the Crowborough Birth Centre and it is a ‘precious oasis’ of maternity care. We see birth on TV, in Call the Midwife, Casualty and other programmes, but the actual midwives and mums are the real stars of the show.

Also present were Chantal Wilson, (Deputy Lieutenant, East Sussex & Chair of the Friends Trustee Board), Sarah Blanchard-Stow (Head of Midwifery, MTW), Catherine Dickson (Chair Tunbridge Wells NCT) Nus Ghani Wealden MP, a number of ‘Crowborough Mums’, including Sara Woollven with her two-day old seventh baby (and still staying in a post-natal room).

Miles Scott thanked the Friends for the support they have shown for the Trust’s aspiration to develop and improve the midwife-led unit to be a birth centre of excellence. He said it was so important for a maternity service to be able to deliver care in this way, and he was immensely thankful to Karen and all the staff for their hard work, especially in keeping the service running so well during the building work. He had seen the fantastic feedback from women who have used the service.

Dr Kate Stokes explained that the Friends were particularly proud to be the conduit of support from the community for the Birth Centre. This support is demonstrated through the £125,000 provided by the Friends which came from donations and fund raising within the community. When she first had contact with Crowborough Birth Centre 21 years ago (as a small GP unit) there were about 50 births each year, whereas now there are 180 births each year and rising. In addition the midwife team based at Crowborough provide ante-natal and postnatal care for over 800 women in the local area, whether or not they are able to give birth at Crowborough.

The Birth Centre has seen a 16% increase in mothers choosing to have their babies at the unit this year with 181 babies delivered between April 2018 – March 2019.

Birth Centre Manager, Karen Leeson said:

We provide midwifery led, women centred care to all women throughout Kent and East Sussex giving them choice in their place of birth.

A huge thank you to the Friends of Crowborough Hospital for their support and generous donation, everyone has worked really hard to make the rooms as comfortable and uplifting as possible.

Special thanks also to all the midwives and maternity support workers for their ongoing professional and excellent care provided to women and their families.

After the ribbon cutting, some more informal contributions about the birth centre were heard from staff, mothers and supporters of the centre.

Sarah Woollven spoke of her positive experience at Crowborough Birth Centre, and thanked the whole team. She had also found that midwives go above and beyond the call of duty, and that as a Mum she found she can rely on support from everyone.

Nus Ghani said that as an MP she received lots of feedback praising the care provided by the midwives and support staff often naming the member of staff who had cared for them and this included (ex-midwife) Kay who still volunteers in the centre!

Mark Stronghill (MTW Estates) along with Dan and Steve (from building contractors Marpaul) were thanked for the way they had carried out the work that allowed the centre to remain open 24/7 throughout. Melody Grove said she had never noticed that building work was underway when she had Fergus, but admitted she did have other things on her mind at the time!

The final part of the event that Melody Grove was asked to help with was the selection of names (trees and flowers) for the two new birthing rooms and the three postnatal rooms. The names chosen were Hazel, Birch, Sunflower, Lavender and Bluebell.

The new room names were celebrated by cutting the cake made by Midwife Cheryl (soon to retire).

Karen Leeson, Birth Centre Manager, rounded off the celebration by thanking all the staff past and present for embracing the move to the new NHS Trust over past 3 years. She said it had been lovely experience with support from staff, the Friends and the community. She felt proud of the team, the birth centre itself and what had been achieved. She thanked Melody especially for her time and support for the opening celebration, and invited everyone to stay and enjoy an ‘afternoon tea’.

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