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New £12m maternity unit unveiled as South Lakes Birth Centre

South Lakes Birth Centre

[T]he new £12m Maternity Unit at Furness General Hospital (FGH) will soon be full of the pitter patter of tiny feet – as staff at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) ‘receive the keys’ to the newly named South Lakes Birth Centre.

The centre, named by the public and staff, is made up of 14 en-suite birthing rooms with facilities for partners to stay over, two dedicated operating theatres, a Special Care Baby Unit, a Maternity Assessment area, a Transitional Care facility, a skills lab for staff training, and a Bereavement Suite.

Building started on the unit in September 2016 and has taken just under 15 months to complete. Throughout December, a period of commissioning will take place to ensure all the equipment is installed and tested, and the unit is cleaned. In the New Year, the multi-disciplinary teams will start their induction and training in the new unit, which is essential as it makes sure that staff feel at home and fully equipped in the new unit.

Construction team ‘hand over’ South Lakes Birth Centre to UHMBT staff

Sascha Wells, Director of Midwifery, Gynaecology and Obstetrics, UHMBT, said: “This is a very exciting time for our teams and everyone in the Barrow area. South Lakes Birth Centre is everything we could ever want. It includes all of the facilities that the public has told us will make a real difference to women and families, and at 2,553 square metres, it is 85% bigger than the current unit.

“Some of our midwives, doctors and support workers have been walking through the same front door for nearly 30 years, so they are over the moon to be given the opportunity to be able to undertake their role in our brand new unit.

“We expect to welcome our first woman into the unit in early February 2018, and it will be officially opened on Wednesday 14 February 2018. We are delighted that Dr Bill Kirkup and local MP, John Woodcock, have agreed to be involved in the opening.”

New birthing room at South Lakes Birth Centre
New SCBU at South Lakes Birth Centre
Operating Theatre at South Lakes Birth Centre

During the move from the current unit and the new unit, both units will be staffed to ensure a smooth transition for staff, women and families.
To ensure the new unit met the needs of staff and the local communities, staff at the Trust have been working closely with staff and families who lost loved ones following care at FGH, women and families that have used its maternity services previously and those that may use them in the future, to design the unit and what it is made up of. Some of the ideas that were given by staff, women and families which were then incorporated into the final design, included:

  • The facilities for birth partners to stay with the woman from admission to discharge home
  • The skills lab which enables multi-disciplinary teams to learn and train together. This includes a state-of-the-art ‘Sim Mum’ that simulates various birthing situations and complications to allow staff to keep their clinical skills and decision making up to date
  • The dedicated Bereavement Suite and garden – including what is in the suite and the décor
  • Extra birthing pools
  • The interior design of the final unit
  • The final name of the unit – South Lakes Birth Centre

Lesley Bennett has worked closely with the Trust to design the new Maternity Unit. She said: “Our wish for the community was always to have a new unit and for us to be involved from the start on how it would look and what it contained. This has meant so much to the families involved and we believe that the improvements made in UHMBT’s maternity services have set standards in the wider NHS. With this new unit, I know the teams will continue to improve and leave a lasting legacy for future generations.

“I am very proud to have been involved and worked closely with such a compassionate, innovative, driven and dedicated team and want to thank them all, especially Sascha Wells, Sue Smith, David Walker and Jackie Daniel for all their dedication and determination to get it right.”
The Trust has committed to remember those that are tragically no longer with us, and remains in regular conversation with a number of families about how they can best be remembered and appropriately commemorated in the new unit. Further details will be shared when available.

Jackie Daniel, Chief Executive, UHMBT, said: “When we announced the investment into the new Maternity Unit at FGH in March 2016, we hoped this would be part of a new beginning for staff, women, families and local people. As a Trust, and indeed as a community, we will never forget the past nor how we ended up where we were but what we can absolutely commit to is that we will remember what happened by doing all we can every day to offer safe and high quality maternity services.

“The strength and determination shown by the families who lost loved ones has been nothing short of inspiring throughout and I can’t thank them enough for working with us to improve our services and design this fantastic new unit.

“I’d also like to thank our staff for putting everything into turning our maternity services around and making positive changes for the benefit of local people. It hasn’t been easy for anyone involved but I genuinely believe that we now offer services that we can all be proud of.”

James Titcombe tragically lost his son Joshua in 2008, following care at FGH. He said: “In recent years, the Trust has worked incredibly hard to not just to learn lessons from the Kirkup investigation, but to set an example to the rest of the NHS in how to develop a truly safe and compassionate maternity service.

“The Trust and all the staff at FGH should be really proud of the work that’s been done. The new unit is fantastic news for families in Barrow and I hope can also become a lasting legacy for those who were let down in the past.

“The Trust has demonstrated what can be achieved through openness, honesty and a commitment to learn.”

As part of the Trust’s commitment to the new unit being truly part of the community, special preview events have been arranged where members of the public can come into the unit to have a look round and speak to staff about the facilities and plans for the future. The public preview events will take place on:

Saturday 13 January 2018

  • 11.30am – 12.30pm
  • 12.30pm – 1.30pm
  • 4pm – 5pm
  • 5pm – 6pm

Sunday 14 January 2018

  • 9.30am – 10.30am
  • 10:30am – 11:30am
  • 11.30am – 12.30pm
  • 12.30pm – 1.30pm
  • 4pm – 5pm
  • 5pm – 6pm

Due to the size of the unit, places on the tours are limited so members of the public will need to book. Places can be reserved via the Trust’s website at:

Local MP, John Woodcock, has long pressed for maternity services at FGH to be turned around and for facilities to be upgraded. Recently, he obtained the backing of health secretary Jeremy Hunt for local campaigners to be commemorated in the new unit.

Mr Woodcock, said: “Thousands of people from all walks of life have been involved in our initiatives to bring about improvements and it is an exciting milestone for the keys of the new unit to be handed over to the Trust. In the past, some families were badly let down by failings at the hospital, but now we stand on the threshold of a new era and the South Lakes Birth Centre will provide the gold standard maternity care people have been calling for and deserve.”

Dr Geoff Jolliffe, Vice Clinical Chair of Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is a fantastic development for women and families in the Furness area. The design of the Maternity Unit has been informed by local women’s views and echoes the enthusiasm and hard work of the maternity team who are working in new ways to meet the needs of the local population.”

Local people can still get involved in the new unit as part of the Bayb’s Maternity Appeal. The appeal continues to go from strength to strength, and thanks to the generosity and kindness of local people, the total raised currently stands at a massive £175,000! The appeal was launched in March 2017 to raise £250,000 to fund additional equipment, services and furnishings that will make all the difference to mums-to-be and their partners. With just £75,000 to go to meet the appeal’s target, there are still lots of opportunities for the public to get involved.

Jackie, concluded: “The generosity of local people never surprises me and this appeal is no different. On behalf of the Trust, I’d like to thank everyone who has donated, held a fundraising event or donated items for us to sell on our various charity stalls. Every penny counts and will go towards those things that make a difference to the experience women and families get in our new unit.”

For more information on the appeal, visit:

The completion of South Lakes Birth Centre also means that the Trust has now met all of the recommendations of the Morecambe Bay Investigation in full within the timescales set out.

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