24 Jun 2022, 4 p.m.

In response to extreme staffing pressures in midwifery and to ensure services remain safe, The Aveta Birth Unit at Cheltenham General Hospital will remain temporarily closed to new births with a further review due in the autumn.

High sickness levels including COVID-related and non-COVID sickness combined with a national shortage of midwives means that staffing levels remain very challenging.

Professor Mark Pietroni, Interim Chief Executive, said: “Staffing levels across our maternity services continue to be extremely challenging and a significant proportion of our midwives are absent either due to COVID-related or non-COVID sickness.

“We recognise that the Aveta Birth Unit is a much-loved and valued service which our patients and the public hold in high regard. However, it must be our priority to ensure a safe birthing experience for all service users and to do this, we need to redeploy our midwives to alternative locations to ensure we can continue to provide safe, one-to-one care.

“Despite these significant pressures we continue to provide a midwifery-led service at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and Stroud Maternity as well as providing continued support for home births.”

Our maternity service provision can be summarised as follows:

  • Gloucestershire Royal Hospital: Our Gloucester Birth Unit and the main Delivery Suite, both in the Women’s Centre at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH), are unaffected by these temporary changes.
  • Stroud Maternity Unit: All services at the unit continue including labour and birth services and planned antenatal care.
  • Cheltenham Aveta Birth Unit: Will remain temporarily closed for labour and birth. Other services including planned antenatal care will continue.

Prof Pietroni added: “While we appreciate that this decision may be very difficult for women, birthing people and the families that we care for, we wanted to be open, honest and clear about the challenges and the impact that staffing challenges are having on service provision. We also want to reiterate our long-term commitment to the Cheltenham Unit.

“While there are no patients planned to use the Aveta Birthing Unit as part of their birthing plans, we do acknowledge the disappointment felt by those who would have preferred this service and we would like to sincerely apologise to them. However, we want to assure you that our dedicated team of midwives and all other maternity staff are committed to providing a positive birth experience for you.

“Finally, this temporary change will be reviewed again in the autumn when we expect that planned recruitment will allow re-opening in October. We will, of course, communicate any further changes at this point.”