Plans to cut back on home births scrapped

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Health bosses have scrapped plans to reduce the number of mums-to-be giving birth at home.

Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was proposing to add home births to a list of procedures classed as of ‘low clinical value’, with doctors being told to follow strict guidelines and cut back on referrals in a bid to save cash.

But after concern from the public, as well as independent group Healthwatch Blackpool, the CCG says nothing will now change, with parents still able to give birth at home if they medically fit to do so.

Last year, 45 out of 3,008 babies born in Blackpool were delivered at home, the Victoria Hospital said. Some 22 were planned.

Chief clinical officer, Dr Amanda Doyle, said: “We have been carrying out engagement with patients on several clinical policies potentially being added to the list of procedures of limited clinical value.

“This was part of a Lancashire-wide opinion-finding exercise and we thank everyone who responded. We have listened to the feedback we received from the public, partner organisations including Healthwatch and our clinical leads. As a result we do not intend to identify home births as a procedure of limited clinical value.”

Last month, The Gazette told how resort health bosses plan to strictly enforce guidelines for procedures as of ‘low clinical value’, including grommets – a type of surgical hearing aid – for children under 12, cosmetic surgery, bariatrics operations for obese patients, caesarean sections, and assisted conception procedures such as IVF.

Doctors in the resort could also be told not to prescribe paracetamol, cough and cold medicines, or sun cream, unless there is a longer-term clinical need.

The town’s clinical commission group (CCG), which organises and pays for residents’ health care and is based in a stand at Bloomfield Road, is proposing drastic action after its financial control was found lacking during a recent inspection.

It said it needs to save £6.4m because it simply can’t afford to keep paying for the number of procedures currently being carried out. The minor ailments scheme at resort pharmacies, which sees children’s medicine doled out for free, could also be reviewed, while further procedures could also be added to the list of procedures of potentially-limited clinical value (POLCV).

“We have a duty to spend the money we receive from the government in a fair and efficient way, taking into account the health needs of the whole local community,” the CCG said.

“As there is only a set amount of money available to spend we sometimes have to make difficult decisions about which treatments are not routinely provided.

“Some of these treatments are described as procedures of potentially limited clinical value (POLCV).

“These are procedures for which, evidence reviewed by national experts, has suggested have only limited or temporary benefit, and which are not felt to be necessary to maintain good health.

“This means that referrals for these procedures need to be considered on a case-by-case basis and defined criteria must be met before they can be provided on the NHS.

“We are currently reviewing this list of procedures with a view to adding further treatments. All of the suggested additions are based upon clinical evidence which demonstrates the limited benefit of these procedures unless undertaken when certain criteria has been met.”

A 2011 study showed home births are safer for women having their second or subsequent baby, but not for those having their first, National Childbirth Trust (NCT) said.

The study found women planning a home birth were more likely to have a ‘normal’ birth, with less chance of a c-section, the use of forceps, or bleeding.

Results showed 88 per cent of home births were ‘normal’ compared to fewer than 60 per cent in maternity units.

And senior policy advisor Elizabeth Duff added: “Home birth is neither a ‘procedure’ nor an ‘intervention’ – it is a choice for women planning the best options for the birth of their baby. Home births are safe for most women and can offer the benefit of care from a known midwife and less intervention.”