Manx Care is still seeking to recruit more midwives to make home births an option in the island.

Health Minister Lawrie Hooper says the organisation cannot offer home births currently due to staffing pressures.

He addressed the matter in Tynwald this week when asked by Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Jason Moorhouse how the Department of Health and Social Care and Manx Care had promoted a woman’s right to home birth and choices in birth planning.

Mr Hooper said: ‘The department recognises the choice which many may wish to consider and in an ideal world every expectant family would be offered a range of birthing options.

‘However, in order to ensure that Manx Care is providing a safe and suitable maternity service for everyone, home births cannot currently be offered as standard.

‘The provision of this more flexible service would require more midwives. The safety of women and their babies is our primary concern and services delivered reflect this.’

When asked what the department and Manx Care are doing to improve provision, the minister explained that from October 2022 women could create a plan with their midwife for their pregnancy and birth.

‘Any requests or additional health needs will be prioritised and an individual assessment and plan devised,’ he said.

‘Manx Care is seeking to recruit midwives and student midwives through an active recruitment programme and training process.

‘This includes the engagement of overseas and working in partnership with our university counterparts in the UK.

‘Manx Care is exploring different ways of working with alternative models for staffing that will support women’s choices.

‘The timeframe by where Manx Care will be in a position to improve this offer is dependent on recruitment and length of training.’

Mr Hooper said that while home births aren’t offered as standard in the Isle of Man, Manx Care does work with expectant mothers and families to devise individual plans.

He added: ‘We have had and continue to have planned home births on the island. They do happen, they are just not offered as standard.

‘It’s absolutely dependent on Manx Care being able to continue to staff the service safely. It’s not something that’s offered routinely. ‘I think it’s the right thing to do to say when we cannot offer a service safely so the service is not offered unsafely to the Manx public.’

This comes after the DHSC breached statutory obligations by not offering expecting mothers home births, as we reported earlier this month.

Angela Main-Thompson, the Tynwald commissioner for administration, examined the issue after a complaint from a couple who were refused a home birth.

The couple, who had lived in England but decided to return to the island to have and raise their children, were told there was no provision for home births here and that they would have a hospital birth.

Ms Main-Thompson looked at how many home births there were in the island in the last five years.

She found that between 2017 and 2021, 3,478 babies were born in the Isle of Man, with just four pre-planned home births.

Ms Main-Thompson said that the DHSC had ‘breached its statutory obligations over a number of years and acted ultra vires’ and that the ‘continuing failure by Manx Care to discuss the possibility of home births and decide on a case-by-case basis is unacceptable’.