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Following fifteen years of successful campaigning for Midwife-led birth centres in Bristol, the campaign group was dissolved in a celebratory manner in September 2016

The campaign group Birth Centre Bristol has been instrumental over the last twelve years in seeing midwife-led care, within midwife-led birth settings, become a priority in the design of Bristol's maternity services for both NHS trusts.

At a meeting in September 2016 of the BCB Steering Group, it was unanimously agreed to dissolve Birth Centre Bristol after fifteen years of campaigning for the improvement of maternity services in the Bristol area and specifically proposing the creation of freestanding midwife-led birth centres where women could give birth in a respectful and homelike environment with continuity of care from known midwives.

During this time, we were instrumental in the decision to set up the Bristol Maternity Services Review, which laid down challenging targets for increasing the number of midwife-led births and for promoting normal birth. As a result of our participation in the Bristol Maternity Services Review and thanks to the vision and support of Deborah Evans, then Chief Executive of Bristol Primary Care Trust, Cossham Birth Centre opened in January 2013 to provide an inspirational new facility for women giving birth in Bristol.

The midwife appointed as Lead for Normal Birth and Matron of Cossham Birth Centre brought her extensive experience, formidable energy and commitment to the philosophy of midwife-led care. A formal written Philosophy for Cossham Birth Centre was agreed and subscribed to by the Cossham Birth Centre Steering Group, which was responsible for the design and delivery of Cossham Birth Centre and which received a national award at the House of Lords for service user involvement. Birth Centre Bristol representatives were involved both in the key decision to appoint the Lead Midwife and in the development of the Philosophy.

It was always part of our proposal that any birth centre should be set up with a lay board to provide continuing guidance and support and to protect the philosophy of midwife-led care. The Cossham Birth Centre Stakeholder Group was set up in January 2013 with the backing of the North Bristol NHS Trust and for the past three years, under the skilled chairmanship of a the National Childbirth Trust representative, we have been privileged to be represented and to contribute to the work of the Stakeholder Group. This has given us a unique insight into the challenges that have been faced and the successes that have been achieved. We hope to have demonstrated how a group of this kind can provide a confidential sounding board and intervene where necessary with an independent perspective on issues that arise.

In parallel with the development of Cossham Birth Centre, both of the Bristol NHS Trusts now have flourishing midwife-led facilities alongside their hospital provision. Between them these three midwife-led units, both alongside and freestanding, have transformed maternity care in Bristol and are close to meeting the targets for midwife-led care set out in the Bristol Maternity Services Review.

Looking at these achievements, we feel that the work of Birth Centre Bristol is done. We believe that we have left a legacy that will continue to evolve without further active participation from us. After fifteen years of working side by side with so many different individuals across NHS services in Bristol, we have concluded that there is one further development that would have a lasting effect in enhancing and promoting midwife-led care and normal birth, with all of their known benefits. This would be for the Trusts to continue to work closely together and specifically to ensure that all women in the Bristol area are aware of all the choices available to them across the city.

We wish to thank all BCB Supporters including mothers, midwives, obstetricians, doulas, antenatal teachers and our colleagues in the Bristol Primary Care Trust for their interest, enthusiasm and belief in the BCB campaign.

Birth Centre Bristol Steering Group
September 2016