Whipps Cross Women's and Neonatal Services Transformation

Thanks to generous £6.7m funding from our friends at Barts Charity, we are making a series of improvements to our Maternity and Neonatal services to improve the environment and prepare us for an increase in birth rates in our local population.  We expect that 50,000 local mothers – plus their partners and families – will directly benefit from the new facilities over the next 10 years, with many more benefiting from the new research opportunities.

Our women’s and neonatal services are already rated as ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission and we aim to get to ‘outstanding’ despite the challenge of east London having the highest proportion of ‘at risk’ pregnancies and our aging estate All of the enhancements are aimed at improving the experience of women and their families. We will redesign/refurbish seven areas: a special care baby unit (SCBU); midwifery-led birthing unit; day assessment unit; antenatal clinic; labour ward; a women’s centre and postnatal ward.

Specifically, we will:

  • Create an emergency corridor from maternity and the women’s centre to the main hospital for urgent needs (at the moment it’s an ambulance journey).
  • Provide additional capacity to respond to an expected increase in the number of births in the local area (expected to grow by 33,000 in next four years).
  • Reconfigure and increase clinical space – better facilities plus improved overnight facilities for parents of babies in special care.
  • Build new research facilities to house five research staff based within the delivery suite, with a new dedicated private space to discuss clinical trials with women, and create a new mini laboratory.
  • Create a Whipps Cross clinical research hub for women's services
  • Provide our services with improved and enhanced surroundings

Debbie Twyman, head of midwifery and gynaecology at Whipps Cross, said: “Our vision is that Whipps Cross will work in partnership with our sister hospitals, the Royal London [in Whitechapel] and Newham, and have a research hub that encourages doctors to come here and will facilitate and support their research. Their research will give us the evidence to improve outcomes for women and their babies.”

Fiona Miller Smith, chief executive of Barts Charity, said: “We’re delighted to have funded this hugely exciting project at Whipps Cross. We’re confident that it will give them a greater reach to ensure significantly improved care and outcomes for mothers across the UK.”

Local news coverage:

The Evening Standard announced this funding in November 2017

Marathon Mum runs the London Marathon to raise funds for Barts Charity and Whipps Cross maternity unit

The Waltham Forest News 9 April edition

Contact Us: 

To contact us about this project, please e-mail maternity.works@bartshealth.nhs.uk

Whipps Cross Women's and Neonatal Services Transformation FAQs

What’s happening with the women’s and neonatal services at Whipps Cross?

Thanks to a generous £6.7m contribution from Barts Charity, we will be transforming our services for women and babies and the staff who work in these areas. We will be redesigning and enhancing our women’s and neonatal services and co-locating a new research unit within the area.

The layout and look of areas will change and we will be improving the facilities to enhance the experience for women and babies. This is excellent news for our Women and Children’s Division, which the CQC has rated as “good” despite the challenging infrastructure.  

Specifically, this transformation project will:

  • Provide our  services with improved and enhanced surroundings

  • Reconfigure and increase clinical space to create better facilities plus improved overnight facilities for parents of babies in special care

  • Create a new emergency corridor from maternity and the women’s centre to the main hospital for urgent needs (at the moment it’s an ambulance journey).

  • Provide additional capacity to respond to an expected increase in the number of births in the local area (this is forecast to grow by 33,000 over the next four years).

  • Create a Whipps Cross Hospital clinical research hub for women's services.

What will be different?

The plans for the works will address feedback from our patients, service users and staff of the things that need improving in the building. This includes providing:

  • New birthing pools and modern natural birthing equipment for the Lilac Birthing Unit

  • Ensuites in all delivery rooms on the Labour Ward and Lilac Birthing Unit

  • Partner/family areas on the Labour Ward, Lilac Birthing Unit and Special Care Baby Unit

  • Overnight rooming facilities with ensuites for parents of babies in the Special Care Baby Unit – plus an kitchen / dining area for these families

  • An increased number of treatment / examination rooms available to deliver specialist gynaecological services in one area – the Women’s Centre

  • A new research unit dedicated to women’s services

  • A new internal link from the maternity building into the main hospital building for emergency transfers of patients

  • More waiting areas with more seats

  • More welcoming and modern entrances to the building  

  • Toilets for men in the Antenatal Clinic, Labour Ward and Lilac Birthing Unit and Special Care Baby Unit areas

  • New/updated staff changing, shower/toilet and rest rooms     

  • Remodelled staff office spaces.

Additionally we will be installing new windows throughout the maternity building and constructing a new entrance and waiting areas for the Antenatal Clinic.

Why are these changes being made?

At the moment we have great feedback from our patients and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – which has rated our service as ‘good’ - but our outdated buildings and facilities are letting us down.

The current poor condition of the maternity building environment means that a large number of women who start off their antenatal care at Whipps Cross Hospital do not end up giving birth here. We want to create a centre of excellence for women and neonatal services at Whipps Cross University Hospital that will improve patient experiences and support patients through the duration of their pregnancy to a birth of their choice. Our aim is for Whipps Cross Hospital to become the first choice for birthing women in north east London.

The works will address problems with our building and the facilities available to patients and their families.  

How will this benefit patients, staff and the local community?

The project will redesign and improve our use of clinical spaces to help improve patient pathways through our services and enhance the experience for birthing mothers and their families. Our patients and their families will benefit from increased and better facilities and have an enhanced experience and choice. The improved facilities will support our ambition to provide outstanding care and will greatly enhance the services we can offer to our patients.

The local community will benefit from having a woman’s and neonatal department that will meet the future demand that anticipated population growth will have on our services. The whole of north east London has a rapidly increasing birth rate, with the current population estimated to be 268,000 and expected to grow by 32,500 by 2021.

Our staff are already delivering good care and with better facilities we will be able to provide an environment that our staff are proud to work in, enhance junior doctor training, increase recruitment to research studies – all of which will enable us to improve the care we deliver to women in East London and beyond in the future.

How much will it cost?

The project is funded by a charitable donation from the Barts Charity of £6.7m. Additional funding of approximately £645k will be sought from Barts Trust for new and replacement equipment. This is the largest single charity donation received across Barts Health and the largest capital investment project currently underway at Whipps Cross Hospital.

How long will it take?

Elements of the works are planned to commence from the start of 2019. The work will be done in phases that will focus the works in different areas of the building in sequence and are anticipated to complete in mid 2020.

We will provide more details around the dates and phasing of works as the contractors are appointed and the works dates are confirmed.

What will happen to patients during the building work?

The Women’s and Neonatal Services Transformation Project will remodel our existing buildings and does not involve the construction of any new buildings. Therefore, to enable the works to be completed there will be times when we will need to restrict the use of parts of the building. This will involve delivering services from different locations for a period of time.

At this stage of planning we are still in the process of identifying the phases in which the works will be done. This involves planning how services will need to be moved into temporary location during works in those areas. Once these details are confirmed we will provide an update.

We will ensure our patients, users of our services and their families are advised of changes in clinic locations and that the signage at the hospital supports service users finding their way around. A key priority for us is to ensure we minimise the disruption of works on our patients and the services they receive.     

Where will your staff go during the building work?

Clinical staff may need to move to different areas to enable them to continue to deliver services. Service users will be updated around any changes to where they access their required services. For staff with offices based in the maternity building we may need to review the office accommodation and assign them a new office or a temporary office location. At this stage of planning the office accommodation has still to be reviewed. Once this has been done we will provide an update to our staff.    

What are you doing to minimise the disruption to local residents?

The works being planned are a remodelling of an existing building with a small area adjacent to the old entrance / maternity car park being developed to provide a new entrance / reception areas. As most of the works are inside the building, the noise of partition walls and facilities being removed and rebuilt should not be disruptive to local residents. There will be some increase in vehicles accessing the hospital site when the contractors are on site but as the works are being phased over a long period of time this is not expected to cause noticeable disruption in the local area.     

While works proceed in one area of the building we will be continuing to deliver services from adjacent areas. All that can be done to minimise noise or other disruption will be done. We aim to keep our patients and local residents updated during works of our plans and progress.  

How are you involving patients, staff and the local community in plans for the services?

The feedback we have received from service users and their families has already been used to develop the project. We will continue to analyse and use the feedback we receive to identify further improvements around all aspects of the services we deliver.

Working with a number of our stakeholders we are looking to set up a patient group with the objectives of working with this group to identify improvements around patient journeys, help in developing communications and using their personal experiences to develop areas of the project. This patient group will help us to sense check the plans for the project and assist in the development of patient’s stories that will highlight the improved outcomes from the project.       

Staff feedback has been a key element of the planning and development of the designs for the project. So far, clinical leads and staff user groups have been involved in the development stages of plans and we are continuing to consult with them as we progress with the detailed plans for the building. We will be sharing the plans more widely with all staff in the division and also across the site to get wider staff views and feedback on what is planned.

What is it called?

The project is the Whipps Cross Hospital Women’s and Neonatal Services Transformation – Delivering quality healthcare for women and families of North East London.

How many women and their families will it help in the future?

We estimate that approximately 50,000 women over the next 10 years will benefit directly from the building and service transformation of women’s and neonatal services. The planned works will create a bespoke and cohesive maternity, neonatal and gynaecology service, bringing current antenatal and postnatal services together in one well-designed space.

The proposed development will also support the expansion of the academic base at Whipps Cross by strengthening the links with the academic team at the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD) creating a dedicated clinical research space will allow the expansion of existing research programmes and enable the creation of a Whipps Cross research base.

Our long-term vision is to create the largest Maternity Centre in Europe across Barts Health, influencing maternity policy across the sector nationally and internationally, offering local women the highest possible standard of quality care, over and above the NHS current standard.

What do families like about your services?

The most common feedback from our patients and their families is that our staff:

  • Are professional, caring, supportive and welcoming

  • Provide great care, advice and information  

  • Treat patients with empathy and respect.

We’re very proud of our staff and we are confident that with the enhanced building and facilities our feedback will get even better.

What do they most often complain about?

Of course there are always things we can improve – the main things that patients highlight as needing improvement are round the:

  • Condition of our building

  • Facilities within the building

  • Lack of seats in waiting areas.  

What else is it bringing to the service that you don’t currently have?

The remodelled areas and new spaces will support us improving the quality of the services we provide to our patients and improve their experiences. The reconfiguring and redesign of spaces will enable us to transform patients journey’s through our services.

Does this have anything to do with the redevelopment of the whole hospital?

Barts Health has started looking at options around the future for the Whipps Cross site. But outside of that programme we have identified a key priority to update and remodel Women’s and Neonatal Services to address the issues with our old building that prevents our staff being able to deliver outstanding services. The remodelling of Women’s and Neonatal Services does align with the emerging Whipps Cross Development Strategy.

The improved Maternity building would, with additional infrastructure investment, be capable of integrating into the emerging site redevelopment strategy as the long term location for our women’s and maternity services. As part of the wider development of the site we would aim to secure investment in replacement external cladding, replacement lifts and secondary electrical and mechanical engineering infrastructure to further improve the building in the future for our patients and staff.

Why is research so important to the project?

The proposed development will support the expansion of the academic base at Whipps Cross by strengthening the links with the academic team at the Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD) creating a dedicated clinical research space will allow the expansion of existing research programmes and enable the creation of a Whipps Cross research base.

Creating clinical research and training facilities will benefit the care we provide to our patients as well as making the teaching and training facilities attractive regionally.  Our long-term vision is to expand our academic programme, not only by participating more strongly in recruiting into current trials, but also by strengthening the academic base at the Whipps Cross University Hospital site.

What does the CQC say about women’s and neonatal services at Whipps?

The last CQC inspection in 2016 graded the service as good and advised that ‘Patients and their relatives spoke highly of the care they received in both the maternity and gynaecology units’

But …

  • “The fabric of the building housing the maternity services was old and whilst efforts were made with clinical areas it was evident that non patient areas such as visitor toilets have not been subject to the same level of investment.”

  • “The physical care environment of the neonatal unit was below expected standards. The general appearance of the neonatal unit was shabby with broken handles and broken equipment with a poor state of décor throughout.”

How can I find out more about the project or get involved?

Look about for information on this website around opportunities to get involved in patient groups or other activities around the development of the project that will involve service users.

For any questions / suggestions please email us at maternity.works@bartshealth.nhs.uk