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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Labour epidural service introduced at the Cumberland Infirmary

Labour epidural service introduced at the Cumberland Infirmary

Posted on Thursday 12th November 2015

A labour epidural service has been launched at the Cumberland Infirmary

A labour epidural service has been launched at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

The anaesthetic and midwifery teams have been working hard to put this service in place, which offers women increased choice of pain relief in labour. Labour epidurals involve inserting of a small plastic tube into the back which is then used to deliver medication as pain relief in labour. They can only be inserted by a suitably trained anaesthetist.

The teams at the Cumberland Infirmary have been aspiring for some time to deliver this service which is already offered at West Cumberland Hospital. This became a Trust priority area following the Care Quality Commission inspection in 2014.  Staff shortages in anaesthesia have prevented this service previously but now, although staffing remains a challenge, the correct staffing structure has been achieved.

Women considering requesting an epidural should note that their availability does depend on how busy the delivery suite or anaesthetist is and there may be occasions when it is not possible to offer the service. Most women in labour are eligible to have an epidural if they wish but there may be certain conditions and complications of pregnancy that mean an epidural is not a suitable option.

Ann James, consultant anaesthetist at the Cumberland Infirmary, said: “We are delighted to now be able to offer a labour epidural service in Carlisle.

“The midwifery and anaesthetic teams have worked extremely hard to put the service in place with staff across the Trust taking part in a training programme. Staff have really embraced the challenge and invested their time to make it a success which has been fantastic to see.”

Chris Bird, maternity matron at the Cumberland Infirmary, said: “It is important to us that we can offer women in labour a range of options and we are pleased that the epidural service is now available at the Cumberland Infirmary thanks to hard work and commitment from both the midwifery and anaesthetic teams.”

Women from across Allerdale, Carlisle, Copeland and Eden with experience of using maternity services over the past five years, their partners and family members and others who may have a baby in the future are currently being asked to give their views to help improve maternity services.

Throughout this month, teams from Healthwatch Cumbria, local Maternity Services Liaison Committees and local NHS organisations will be visiting a wide range of venues, particularly those where mothers and families meet with their children, to seek views.

There is also an online questionnaire and people can also email comments to

The engagement will end at noon on Monday 30 November 2015 and all feedback received will be analysed independently by Healthwatch and handed to the implementation group set up in June following the independent review of maternity services.

In line with the recommendation of the independent review, the implementation group has been developing a detailed feasibility report on the cost, viability and risks of proceeding with Option 1 (the independent review team’s preferred option) in the long term, including the amount of additional commissioned funding required and whether the model can be supported. The report following the review concluded that if this could not be demonstrated, then other options, as outlined in the report, should be considered.