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A petition has been launched to save home birth services in Hackney – which are set to be drastically scaled down.

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Campaigners will attempt to prevent Homerton Hospital from reducing the number of midwives giving continuous one-to-one natal home care from six to four.

The reduction means the remaining staff will have to rotate, resulting in some pregnant women having to switch to a new midwife shortly before giving birth.

Until the change was announced last week, expectant mothers in the borough who opted for a home birth benefited from a single dedicated childbirth assistant throughout their term, unlike those delivering their child at the hospital in Homerton Row.

The petition was initiated by Hackney doula and home birth activist Rebecca Schiller, and has already collected over 1,000 signatures.

Ms Schiller said: “The scaling down is going to have quite a big impact on births in the borough.

“Midwives know their patients intimately and can notice subtle changes in their bodies which someone new cannot spot as easily.”

The hospital said that the reduction is due to a drop in demand for home births in Hackney, but Ms Schiller pointed out that rates regularly oscillate, and that some women who are transferred to the hospital only for delivery have benefited from months of personalised care at home.

A spokesperson for Homerton Hospital said: “I can assure you that this service is important to the maternity department, but while the home birth rate is currently low it is necessary and correct that we utilise two of the team midwives elsewhere in the service.”

The hospital added that it will expand the team if demand increases – but this is little comfort to Homerton resident Katy Beale, who is due to give birth in January without the midwife who has looked after her for the past eight months by her side.

The 35-year-old mother of one, who had a son at Homerton Hospital seven years ago, said: “My first birth was traumatic, and on the day I was seen by two midwives I have never met before. This time around I wanted to have a team of people around me who knew me well and whose skills I felt confident in.”

Birthplace in England, a study published last year which examined birth safety for low-risk women, concluded that, while there is an increased risk with first-time mothers having a baby at home, those who have already had a child saw less complications and more benefits for both the mother and baby.

Elizabeth Prochaska, a Hackney barrister and founder of the Birthrights organisation, said: “The team have been providing a gold standard service and were available to women from the moment they found out they were pregnant till after the birth”

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