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Oxford University Hospitals Women's Centre celebrates its Golden Jubilee

This article is more than one year old.

"The last minute rushes are over… so are the trial runs…the detailed planning…and the worries of the 11th hour problems. At 8am on July 3, the John Radcliffe Hospital maternity block opened for business. About 5000 babies will be born here every year, in one of the most up-to-date maternity hospitals in the country.

"It is a hospital designed with the mothers' comforts in mind. They are in wards of four beds, tastefully furnished and coloured on the advice of design consultants. The idea is to remind them of their bedrooms at home instead of a clinical hospital."

These were the words from the United Oxford Hospitals Chronicle used to describe the opening of the Women's Centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital. The first baby born there was Justine Pine who arrived at 2.19pm on 3 July 1972. Her parents, Mr and Mrs Robert Pine, were presented with a silver porringer by the Board of Governors.

Fifty years on, the Women's Centre is home to three major services: Maternity, Newborn Intensive Care and Gynaecology. It has also grown to be a regional referral unit for complex pregnancies, with the Newborn Intensive Care Unit providing intensive care for babies in Oxfordshire and across the Thames Valley and Hampshire. The Centre also houses the Support for the Sick Newborn and their Parents (SSNAP) charity. The Centre and the individual services have been celebrating their 50th birthday this month. The Newborn care Unit celebrated the Golden Jubilee with a small event where Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer, acknowledged staff for all their dedication, as well as hinting on future plans for the unit. Refreshments were provided by Oxford Hospitals Charity and the Ronald McDonald House Charity supported some of the group pictures taken at the event.

On Thursday 28 July 2022, Maternity Services will be marking the 50th anniversary celebrating staff with the visit of an ice cream van to distribute free ice cream to staff. Thanks to Oxford Hospitals Charity and the Silver Star Fund for supporting the celebrations.

OUH Maternity Services sees an average of 600 births every month, with most babies born at the Women's Centre in the John Radcliffe Hospital. In the last year alone, 7,720 babies were delivered, with the smallest being 96 grams and the biggest 14lb 15oz. In 2010, sextuplets were born at the John Radcliffe, following quintuplets in 2008.

The Newborn Intensive Care Unit at the Women's Centre currently has over 200 members of staff, taking care of around 800 newborns each year who are born prematurely or have health conditions at birth which require additional care and support. In July 2021, the unit achieved a full UNICEF Baby Friendly Accreditation. The accreditation ensures mothers and babies are adequately cared for using international standards.

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer, Oxford University Hospitals said: "The Women's Centre teams have grown from strength to strength over the last 50 years, offering not just excellent care for Oxfordshire women, and their families but also becoming a specialist centre serving a much wider geography with our expertise in maternity and newborn services. I would like to thank all our staff in the Women's Centre for their hard work and dedication and delivery of compassionate  patient care."

Catherine Greenwood, Clinical Director Maternity, Oxford University Hospitals said: "The journey that Maternity Services have gone through over the last 50 years is phenomenal. We are now supporting women with serious underlying health problems to have successful pregnancies and healthy babies. This was simply not possible 50 years ago. And the support to people giving birth is so different, with the emphasis on the patient's needs at the heart of our service now."

Amit Gupta, Clinical Lead Newborn Care Unit, Oxford University Hospitals said: "50 years is a great landmark. The Women's Centre has provided services for countless numbers of mothers and babies. We have come a long way and babies babies born earlier than 24 weeks' gestation have a much greater chance of survival. We have new technologies, such as using special machines to cool the body temperature of babies so as to reduce their risk of developing brain injury.   

"It is also an opportunity to thank everyone - both clinical and non-clinical members of staff, and we look forward to more innovative ways of working an improving the Centre."

P G Roy, Clinical Director Gynaecology, Oxford University Hospitals said: "We are proud to be part of the Women's Centre's 50th birthday celebrations! The gynaecology team provides a world class service along with high quality research supported by University of Oxford. I would like to congratulate all my colleagues on their continuing efforts and commitment to the excellent service that they provide to women."