The largest single-site maternity unit in the UK is being planned in Leeds as part of the development of two new hospitals on the Leeds General Infirmary site – providing a revolution in patient-centred care.
The centre, which will link the planned new Leeds Children’s Hospital and new hospital for adults, will have the capacity to deliver up to 10,500 babies a year and will provide care for mothers and their babies from across Yorkshire and the north of England.
Centralising services will also bring about safer care for mothers and their babies by providing specialist care and facilities under one roof – currently delivered across two sites at St James’s Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary. Currently, the teams need to transfer babies the 1.5 miles between sites when they need specialist care, separating families and using up staff time and resources. Keeping families together is a key benefit of the plan and will mean more staff are free to deliver clinical care for patients.
The new hospitals, planned in a single building at Leeds General Infirmary, are currently being designed, with building expected to be commence in 2024 - with completion planned between 2026 and 2028 as part of the Department’s New Hospitals Programme commitment to deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030.
Dr Kelly Cohen, Clinical Director for Women’s Services at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said the new Maternity Centre would “overnight” provide a better experience for patients and staff.
“We will be able to provide integrated family care like we have never been able to do before, which is a key part of the new hospital design,” she said. “Mums and Dads will be able to look after their babies with the neo-natal teams there to support and help them.”
The new maternity centre will provide the following benefits:
- a brand-new purpose-built induction and labour suite
- four brand new state-of-the-art theatre units
- one of those four theatres dedicated for planned Caesarean sections
- a midwife-led unit
- a consultant-led birth unit for higher-risk mothers
- two new large maternity wards with space for partners to stay
Many of the babies born in Leeds need specialist care after birth. Being linked so closely to the new Children’s Hospital ensures families receive seamless care from pregnancy, birth and into childhood and adulthood– all in the same place.
The new hospitals will also be a better place to work for staff, who currently travel between sites to deliver care in two separate hospitals.
Once the new hospital is built the extra capacity will provide a better experience by helping reduce delays, providing smoother patient pathways, and reducing the possibility of last minute changes in plan which can be unsettling for patients and their families.
Every year, about 2,500 births in Leeds are by caesarean section – about half of these are emergencies - and one of the four new theatres will be dedicated for planned caesareans. This will help to reduce delays, anxiety and provide a better experience for families who will have their own designated waiting area and specialist teams to look after them.
Caesarean section patients will also have their own enhanced recovery pathways so patients will often be able to return home within 24 hours.
For post-natal patients there will be spacious maternity wards, with all en-suite single rooms that will have space for partners to stay.
Said Dr Cohen: “It means that parents will be starting or growing their family life in their own private space which is great for infection control, but also means they can get to bond with their new baby in a private room with their own bathroom.”
Monica Saikia, a solicitor from Scarcroft, Leeds was one of those expectant mothers who had to be transferred from St James' Hospital when she was admitted at 20 weeks and 23 weeks due to complications.
As there were no neonatal intensive care cots available at Leeds General Infirmary she said it was a waiting game to see where she would be transferred to. “In the interim, all we could do was hope and pray that our daughter did not arrive until such time as we knew which hospital could accommodate her,” said Monica.
Thankfully, a neonatal cot became available at LGI and Monica was transferred there. Said Monica: “Despite it only being a short distance, I was nervous and my mind filled with questions - "What if I go into labour in the ambulance? What if something goes wrong? Will my husband be allowed to stay with me at LGI as he has been doing at St James? Will they put me in a bay surrounded by women going into labour with healthy term babies?"
Monica’s daughter Ria, now a happy and thriving six-year-old, spent 103 days in hospital, eight weeks of which were in intensive care. “What made a stressful situation bearable was not only Ria's determination but the truly amazing staff at the LGI and St James. Had it not been for the exceptionally knowledgeable, caring and dedicated doctors and nurses, our daughter would not be here today.”
Monica added: “Eliminating the need to move between hospitals will no doubt be a welcomed move for all expectant mothers and I certainly would have preferred this. Having a child is a stressful situation and by having all services under one roof, it will inevitably reduce the level of anxiety for expectant mothers.
The design of the maternity centre has not only came about via feedback from the public consultation carried out in 2019-20 but also via patient groups like the Maternity Voices Partnership who have been involved in the plans.
Their main driving force has been on increasing the chances of good outcomes for mothers and families with patients controlling their own environment and privacy.
Aneira Thomas, Chair of the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership, said her group was excited about the new centralised maternity centre with all services under one roof.
The group carried out two surveys of its members about the move in relation to the layout of the new facility, and feedback was generally positive.
“Removing the need to transfer expectant mothers between St James’s Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary if they encounter a problem is going to be a good thing,” she said. “Not everyone likes change, and there has been some apprehension about things like parking on the new hospital site, but having all the expertise in one centre is seen as a real benefit.”