Cossham Birth Centre Temporary Closure FAQs

Cossham Birth Centre is temporarily closed for births until the end of September 2019, with women in labour being diverted to the midwife-led unit at Southmead Hospital.

This decision has been taken because of an unprecedented high number of women needing induction of labour at Southmead Maternity Unit. Combined with staff vacancies, it has required us to maximise our midwifery workforce on one site to maintain the safety of all women and babies in our care.

To ease the pressure, on 1 October 2018 six more maternity beds were opened at our Southmead site and we are currently in the process of recruiting additional midwives so we can fully reopen Cossham as soon as possible. 

Women booked with the preference to deliver at Cossham will continue to have the option of a midwifery-led birth environment at Mendip Birth Centre, Southmead, which has three birthing suites, each with a pool. 

Home birth services these will continue to be available on a case by case basis. All community antenatal and postnatal clinics at Cossham are unaffected and running as normal.

All calls to Cossham Birth Centre from women in labour are being diverted to Mendip Birth Centre.

Why will it take so long to induct new midwives?

It is important that we fully support newly qualified midwives when they first come into post as a fully fledged autonomous midwife.  This supports retention and further recruitment with NBT having an attractive reputation as a ‘great place to work’. It requires a period of orientation and induction/preceptorship in order to fulfil all of the clinical competencies required, usually over a period of 6 weeks.  This is provided by a Midwife Preceptor, a clinical midwife ‘buddy’ and ongoing professional support from the team of Professional Midwifery Advocates (previously Supervisor of Midwives).  Midwifery is a professional where clinical expertise and confidence continues to grow and develop throughout the career pathway. 

Is the staffing model review going to put jobs at risk?

The staffing review is to ensure we have robust models of midwifery care in all midwifery-led care settings that meet the needs of women who access our maternity services.  We can provide an absolute assurance that no jobs will be put at risk as we need to retain the expertise we have in our maternity workforce in order to deliver the care required.

Is Cossham ever going to reopen/aren’t you shutting it by the back door?

No, this is a temporary measure while we recruit more midwives and review the overall staffing model to ensure appropriate and flexible staffing levels are in place for all areas of our services. We are very proud of Cossham Birth Centre and we remain absolutely committed to reopen as soon as it is safe and sustainable to do so.

If you have found 16 midwives in three months, why does it need another seven months to find another 16?

Over the next few months clinical leaders will also review the overall staffing model for both birth centres, which currently have separate teams. This will aim to give staff and women and their families confidence that all services are robust and being run as sustainably and flexibly as possible. It will also aim to give pregnant women more continuity between the midwives responsible for coordinating their pregnancy, birth and postnatal care.

I thought that earlier in January you said you had appointed 18 midwives already?

While we initially appointed 18 midwives over the past few months, two subsequently pulled out.  For those that are newly qualified we need to await confirmation that they are on the Nursing and Midwifery Council Register in order to practice, following which they will be employed as qualified midwives and commence in their role.

Why have eight midwives left since October?

On average, two full time midwives every month due to general turnover.  Since October we have lost 10 midwives – the equivalent of eight full time posts -  for various reasons, including that a number of midwives have returned from maternity leave and sought employment nearer to home.

Why has the induction rate increased?

Due to the introduction of a new national maternity guidelines to reduce stillbirths, North Bristol NHS Trust’s obstetric services have been extremely busy in recent months. Like many other maternity units across the country, this guidance has led to a significant increase in women being medically induced, requiring more complex and specialist care.

I really wanted to have a natural birth which is why I chose Cossham, will I be made to have a medicalised birth now I have to go to Southmead due to lack of space at the Mendip Birth Centre?

The current numbers of women giving birth at Cossham Birth Centre equate to around one per day and this can be comfortably accommodated on Mendip Birth Centre with women transferring to a single postnatal room following birth, freeing up the birthing suite and pool for women in labour.

Will I get the same level of care as I would have had if I had gone to Cossham?

Absolutely, the Cossham Birth Centre Midwives have joined the Mendip Birth Centre team to ensure the midwifery philosophy of care is strengthened and available to women who have booked for Cossham.

I’m worried that the closure of Cossham will mean Southmead will be overcrowded and I might not get a bed?

Cossham Birth Centre has four birthing suites with births averaging one per day. The Maternity Unit at Southmead has increased their capacity with six additional antenatal beds.

All women who were considering Cossham as a birth place option will be safely accommodated and cared for within Mendip Birth Centre, which has three birthing suites and an average of two births per day.

I chose Cossham because I loved the facilities that were available, can Southmead offer the same experience?

We understand many of you are disappointed in the temporary closure of our fantastic birth centre at Cossham which we are very proud of.  We have three large birthing suites available at Mendip Birth Centre at Southmead which have been designed to provide comfort and support for women in labour which offer the same experience and midwifery led philosophy of care.

The rooms are all equipped with a birthing pool, floor mats, a birthing ball and a double bed. There is also mood lighting, a CD player and free WiFi.

If you stay overnight following the birth of your baby, you will be transferred into a single room for your postnatal stay to make the birthing suite available for women in labour. Partners are welcome to stay overnight and a kitchen is available for your use.

How can we help get Cossham open sooner? Can we fundraise?

The temporary closure of Cossham isn’t to do with lack of funding. New national maternity guidelines have increased the demand on our services and changed the model of maternity care being offered to women.  We have been supported with the funding required and are now in the process of recruiting the appropriate levels of midwives to support this.

I live in the East of Bristol and I am concerned how long it will take us to get to Southmead – will I get there in time?

The vast majority of the births that we manage are already at Southmead and we have lots of women coming from a wide geographical area. Midwifery advice is available 24/7 to advise women in labour and suggest when they may wish to make their way in.

I really wanted a home birth but with the closure of Cossham will the home birth midwives have the capacity to do a home assessment at short notice?

Yes. The home birth service will continue to be offered on a case by case basis and we are working hard to ensure it will receive the support it may need if there is increased demand for this short period.

If I need information or advice on what to do will my community midwife be able to help me?

Yes, all community midwives are aware of the current birth place options available to women.

I don’t think I want to go to Southmead to give birth. Can I choose to go to St Michael’s instead?

We hope women will continue their care at North Bristol NHS Trust and feel equally supported during their labour and birth on Mendip Birth Centre, where they will be cared for by the Cossham and Mendip midwives.

On saying that, all women in Bristol have a choice about which hospital they may wish to have their baby and if you decide to change your booking to St Michaels, the community midwives will be able to advise.

What about the Cossham Birth Centre classes, tours and 34 week checks?

Whilst Cossham Birth Centre is temporarily closed, the classes, tours and 34 week checks have been suspended. They will resume when we have the staffing levels required to staff all areas safely and we can identify a date to reopen Cossham.

Routine antenatal and postnatal clinics run by the community midwives at Cossham are unaffected.

Who do I contact if I have further questions?

For more information you can email