The Birth Sanctuary in Bolton - bringing the traditional care back into midwifery

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 February 2015

Mother and daughter bonding

Mother and daughter bonding


Pregnant footballers’ wives and top businesswomen are keen to use a recently-launched private service in Lancashire

Jackie Tomlinson and Sue BainesJackie Tomlinson and Sue Baines

It must make uncomfortable reading for expectant mums and their partners when they hear about the state of Britain’s maternity care.

Just at the time when you are seeking reassurance, another report comes out revealing that funding problems in the NHS are being blamed for a shortage of 2,300 midwives.

Our almost exclusively female workforce of midwives work with dedication and skill but a House of Commons report claims that a third of those with less than ten years’ experience plan to leave the profession within 12 months.

Against this backdrop, it’s little wonder that mums with the money are looking at the private option. But it doesn’t come cheap.

How midwives used to operate in times past, as shown in BBC TV's Call the MidwifeHow midwives used to operate in times past, as shown in BBC TV's Call the Midwife

Sue Baines and Jackie Tomlinson set up The Birth Sanctuary in Bolton during 2012. As private midwives, they have nearly 50 years experience between them, mainly in the NHS.

They feel passionately that mothers-to-be deserve the ultimate level of care, respect and support that some might consider under pressure because of the financial squeeze in the state-run service. Sue and Jackie pride themselves on friendly and personal service with flexible, around-the-clock care to mothers throughout Lancashire and the surrounding area.

‘We met through a mutual friend, a fellow midwife, and we just clicked,’ said Sue, who became a qualified midwife in 1986. After ten years in the profession, she began practicing privately and is also currently works at Salford University teaching midwifery. ‘We wanted to bring midwifery and pregnancy back to being special and women being really looked after – a bit like how it was is in Call the Midwife days.’

Although today, technology and techniques have advanced considerably compared to the BBC TV drama, Sue and Jackie say they carry through the same passion and caring approach.

‘We want to make a difference in people’s lives throughout their pregnancy,’ said Jackie, who recently became full time at The Birth Sanctuary after leaving her job as a midwife at Thameside General Hospital. After originally working in nursing for over a decade, Jackie made the decision to enter into midwifery in 1992.

‘Clinical colleagues in the NHS support us, but we are just offering another choice for women,’ she continued. ‘We are registered with the Care Quality Commission and making sure mum and baby are safe is the most important thing to us – safety with sensitivity.’

The pregnancy package at The Birth Sanctuary will cost a family £4,000. Both Jackie and Sue agree it is a lot, but they say the services these highly experienced and knowledgeable midwives offer throughout and after a pregnancy justifies the fee. Families can opt to pay off the cost through four interest-free instalments.

They offer consultations, flexible at-home appointments, ultrasounds, blood and pathology tests, hospital and labour support, doulas and postnatal care - as well as additional extras such as aqua-natal classes, hypnotherapy and classes for dads or grandparents. Services can either replace or compliment NHS care.

‘Both Jackie and I want to give a mother and her family totally individualised care. From start to finish, we offer a personalised service that meets their needs,’ said Sue. ‘We get to know mums and their family so well and it is lovely to have that bond.’

Their care is so highly regarded that Jackie and Sue have been midwives for a number of Premier League footballer’s wives and high-flying business women. Now the pair wants to expand their reach and bring more midwives into The Birth Sanctuary.

‘The key is to just get more clients and spread what we do and our philosophy,’ said Jackie. ‘We want to only have the best on our team to make a pregnancy and birth journey a positive and memorable experience.’

What a mum says:

‘When I first met Sue and Jackie on my consultation, I saw they were so passionate,’ said Donna Lundy, who lives in Lostock, Bolton. ‘I was so relaxed and immediately knew I wanted to be in their care.’

Donna and her partner Steven Walker welcomed baby Molly Walker into the world five months ago. This bundle of joy was Donna’s first pregnancy, so she wanted to feel confident throughout the experience and the birth.

‘All my appointments were great,’ said Donna. ‘However they were more than just appointments, they were really fun and personal and I looked forward to every single one. I didn’t feel like I was being put through the motions – it felt like I was the first person they had seen all day.’

Sue and Jackie said that they only book a maximum of three appointments per day, so that there are no time restrictions or rush for the mum to leave.

‘Both Sue and Jackie were there supporting me at the birth in hospital. Even my post-natal care was fantastic,’ continued Donna. ‘They were round to see me at home so many times, it was great to have that reassurance and it really helped me.’

‘I would definitely come here again if I am lucky enough to have a second child. I felt quite sad when Molly was born as suddenly I had no more appointments!’

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