This report has been written by BirthChoiceUK for the Royal College of Midwives to show changes in freestanding midwife-led units in England and Wales during the period between April 2001 and February 2013:
• In England in February 2013 there were 59 freestanding midwife-led units (FMUs) compared with 53 in April 2001. During these twelve years 30 new units opened and 21 units were permanently closed. A further three are temporarily closed, with the possibility that they will not reopen. • In Wales in February 2013 there were 13 FMUs in Wales compared with 11 in April 2001. Within that time, six new units opened, and four units closed. • A significant number of the new FMUs were created when obstetric services were centralised elsewhere in a trust or health board. • In England around 12,000 women have their baby in an FMU, nearly 2% of women giving birth in an English NHS setting. Over 4% of women having a normal birth give birth in an FMU. • In Wales around 1,500 women have their baby in an FMU, over 4% of women giving birth in a Welsh NHS setting. • In England the majority of FMUs have 200-300 births a year, whereas in Wales the majority have fewer than 50 births a year. • The pattern of FMUs varies greatly between and within regions, including some small rural units providing a place for just a few women a year to give birth; some well-used and long established urban and rural FMUs; and new FMUs either replacing obstetric services or created in addition to other services. All types of unit are vulnerable to closure.