A new network is being launched to increase the availability of midwife-led care for women. This includes midwife-led maternity units and home births.

The Midwifery Unit Network (MUNet) will support and promote the development and growth of midwifery units (birth centres), and is being launched by Baroness Cumberlege, Chair of the National Maternity Review* at City University on Thursday, 28th April 2016.

The launch of the network is in response to the findings of the National Maternity Review in England. This said that Clinical Commissioning Groups ‘must make available maternity services that offer women the choice of home birth, birth in a midwifery unit and birth in an obstetric unit’.

There has been ‘a longstanding expectation that women should be given a full range of choices for their planned place of birth. However, the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit found in its 2014 survey of women’s experience of maternity care, this was not happening everywhere. Of the women surveyed, 25% were aware of all four options for place of birth, a further 40% were aware of two or three options and 33% had one choice only’, the Review noted

The MUNet website will be a hub for resources and information sharing. The aim is to have a one-stop-shop for collecting the evidence and best practice that exists in midwifery-led birth centres. This will enable the resources and information to be quickly and easily accessed and shared by midwives,  midwifery managers and commissioners.

Midwifery units are safe and cost-effective. The maternity team operates within a social model of care which puts women at the centre and empowers women and midwives alike.

The network’s multi-disciplinary advisory group includes clinicians, consultant midwives, academics, royal colleges, service users, commissioners and the NHS England maternity lead.

MUNet Co-founder, Midwife Consultant, Sheena Byrom OBE, said :

“We need everyone to know about their local midwifery unit, what it offers and how to book their care there. Midwifery units are still a too well kept secret. We also want to assist maternity services who are looking to develop MLUs by providing resources on our website, and connecting them which established successful midwifery units.”

MUNet MUNet Co-founder, Mary Newburn, said:

‘Limited numbers of midwifery units, means women are being denied choice. They should have the opportunity to plan for the kind of birth care they want, but it also means that healthy women without any pregnancy complications are experiencing more major interventions during labour and birth that could be avoided if more were referred to a midwifery unit.’ 

MUNet Co-founder and consultant midwife, Felipe Castro Cardona said:

“We are at a turning point in the history of childbirth in England. Whilst the majority of healthy pregnant women still birth in consultant-led obstetric units; the Birthplace study, NICE intrapartum guidelines and the National Maternity Review pave the way for more births at home and in midwifery units.

“Our vision at MUNet is for midwifery units to be the mainstream option for women with uncomplicated pregnancies. It is an absolute privilege to play a part in this journey.”

Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho, MUNet Co-founder, Lecturer and Researcher at City University London, has been awarded a Knowledge Mobilisation Fellowship by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). She will be working on a case study in partnership between City University London and Barts Health NHS Trust with the aim of increasing the number of women eligible for midwifery-led settings, who plan birth in midwifery units and at home. This will be achieved by engaging both service users and staff in several initiatives, including the improvement of the information women receive and more training for staff.

Lucia said “I am really excited to work collaboratively in partnership with amazing service users, midwives, doctors, inspirational leaders and researchers, who have good care and women’s choices at heart. I am really honoured about this fellowship’.


Midwifery Unit Network Launch

28th April 2016   5.45pm – 8.45pm

City University London, Northampton Suite

Northampton Square, EC1V 0HB

Drinks and canapes
Welcome: Sheena Byrom OBE, Co-founder, Midwifery Unit Network, and Cathy Warwick CBE, Chief Executive, RCM

Address: Chair for the evening, Baroness Julia Cumberlege, Chair National Maternity Review, England 2016 and Sam Everington, GP commissioner, member of the National Maternity Review

Why the Midwifery Unit Network? Mary Newburn, Co-founder Midwifery Unit Network, service user advocate

Setting the scene: Miranda Dodwell, Co-founder of Birthchoice UK

RCM Mapping project: Rupa Chilvers, Project Manager, RCM Better Births Campaign

Why Midwifery Units matter: [name – TBC] Mother and Pauline Cooke Consultant Midwife, St Mary’s Birth Centre and Queen Charlotte’s Birth Centre

Improving our AMU – St George’s: Emma Spillane, birth centre lead and Anna Cosgrave, birth centre midwife, St George’s Hospital, London

Creating new Midwifery Units: Kathryn Gutteridge, Consultant Midwife, Halcyon Midwifery Birth Centre and Serenity Midwifery Birth Centre, City Hospital, West Birmingham

NICE Intrapartum Care guidance: Prof Susan Bewley, Obstetrician, Chair of the Guideline Development Group

Implementing choice of place of birth guidance: Dr Tracey Cooper, Consultant Midwife, Chorley Birth Centre, Lancashire Teaching Hospital

Team working to Improve quality – Manish Gupta Lead Obstetric Consultant, Barts Health NHS Trust and Whipps Cross Hospital, Katherine Brintsworth, Maternity Head of Commissioning for North East London

Midwifery Unit Network website and social media: Sheena Byrom, Midwifery Consultant, Felipe Castro, Consultant Midwife and Co-founder Midwifery Unit Network, Whipps Cross University Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust

NIHR funded knowledge transfer projects on Midwifery Units in England and partnership working in Europe

Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho, NIHR Fellow City University and Co-founder Midwifery Unit Network
Denis Walsh, Associate Professor in Midwifery, School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham

Announcement of the winner of the competition for the MUNet Logo Concluding remarks and official launch of MUNet: Baroness Julia Cumberlege


Barkantine Birth Centre, Barts Health NHS Trust, London – is a small freestanding midwifery unit co-located with a GP practice, dental surgery and a pharmacy. Although not physically connected to a hospital maternity unit, the birth centre is a part of the maternity services provided by the Royal London Hospital.

They are well supported by the obstetric team and work closely with the London Ambulance Service in case a transfer is needed. All midwives use a common framework to explain birth choices and risks. The service provides active birth workshops including information on feeding and water birth, birth centre tours to help familiarise families with the centre and rooms and a 24 hour telephone support and advice. The Barkantine can support up to 600 births a year.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals – has both a freestanding and an alongside midwifery unit providing benefits to local women and families. The births at Chorley (freestanding) birth centre increased to 279 births Jan-Dec 2014 from 112 births in the first year, these numbers slightly dropped to 220 births in 2015 (Jan-Dec) when Preston (alongside) birth centre opened, but the numbers are rising again. 

With the Chorley and the Preston (alongside) birth centre, plus home births, 24% of the total births in the Trust occur in midwifery led settings. Prior to developing the birth centres this was just 6%. Preston (alongside) birth centre had 792 births in 2015 (Jan-Dec). Consultant midwife, Tracey Cooper, who will present at the launch event says: ‘Midwifery led units are key to the future of our maternity services. Feedback from women and their families has been brilliant and the staff enjoy working in the integrated teams.’

Halcyon Midwifery Birth Centre and Serenity Midwifery Birth Centre, City Hospital, West Birmingham – Serenity Alongside and Halcyon Freestanding Birth Centres are the heartbeat of maternity services at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.  ‘Your Birth in our Home’ project was started to change both the service model but also the development of a midwifery service of excellence. Kathryn believes that every women deserves the very best environment and midwifery care but more especially those women who live in deprived circumstances using our service.  

Before Serenity Birth Centre opened clinical outcomes at the Trust for maternity were poor; CS rate 37%, IOL 43%, births with episiotomy 27% and 100% of births took place on the bed.  Over the last 6 years Serenity Birth Centre’s ‘OPT OUT’ pathway for low risk women has clinical outcomes that are continually improving.  We now have an overall CS rate between 19-25%, IOL 12-15%, episiotomy rate of <5% and every woman can use a pool or move freely when in our birth centres.  Midwifery leadership has driven this work and will continue to raise the standards for women and families of the future.

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