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Mapping midwifery and obstetric units in England

Walsh, Denis; Spiby, Helen; Grigg, Celia P.; Dodwell, Miranda; McCourt, Christine; Culley, Lorraine; Bishop, Simon; Wilkinson, Jane; Coleby, Dawn; Pacanowski, Lynne; Thornton, Jim; Byers, Sonia


Denis Walsh

Celia P. Grigg

Miranda Dodwell

Christine McCourt

Lorraine Culley

Jane Wilkinson

Dawn Coleby

Lynne Pacanowski

Jim Thornton

Sonia Byers


Objective: to describe the configuration of midwifery units, both alongside&free-standing, and obstetric units in England.
Design: national survey amongst Heads of Midwifery in English Maternity Services
Setting: National Health Service (NHS) in England
Participants: English Maternity Services
Measurements: descriptive statistics of Alongside Midwifery Units and Free-standing Midwifery Units and Obstetric Units and their annual births/year in English Maternity Services
Findings: alongside midwifery units have nearly doubled since 2010 (n = 53–97); free-standing midwifery units have increased slightly (n = 58–61). There has been a significant reduction in maternity services without either an alongside or free-standing midwifery unit (75–32). The percentage of all births in midwifery units has trebled, now representing 14% of all births in England. This masks significant differences in percentage of all births in midwifery units between different maternity services with a spread of 4% to 31%.
Key conclusions: In some areas of England, women have no access to a local midwifery unit, despite the National Institute for Health&Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommending them as an important place of birth option for low risk women. The numbers of midwifery units have increased significantly in England since 2010 but this growth is almost exclusively in alongside midwifery units. The percentage of women giving birth in midwifery units varies significantly between maternity services suggesting that many midwifery units are underutilised.
Implications for practice: Both the availability and utilisation of midwifery units in England could be improved.


Walsh, D., Spiby, H., Grigg, C. P., Dodwell, M., McCourt, C., Culley, L., …Byers, S. (in press). Mapping midwifery and obstetric units in England. Midwifery, 56,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 8, 2017
Online Publication Date Sep 21, 2017
Deposit Date Oct 25, 2017
Publicly Available Date Sep 22, 2018
Journal Midwifery
Print ISSN 0266-6138
Electronic ISSN 1532-3099
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 56
Keywords Midwifery units; Obstetric units; Survey; Births
Public URL
Publisher URL


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