Trust unveils newly refurbished Gynaecology and Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (GEPAU)

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals held the grand opening of its newly refurbished Gynaecology and Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit at Royal Preston Hospital on Tuesday (January 23), helping to enhance and improve care for women and families experiencing early pregnancy or complications.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was presided over by Chief Nursing Officer, Sarah Cullen, and attended by the women’s health team, external stakeholders, charity representatives, and service users who have co-designed the project.

The £90,000 scheme to redesign the Gynaecology Assessment Unit (GAU), received significant support from Baby Beat – part of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Charity – who contributed £30,000. This initiative is part of the broader women’s health improvement programme to enhance the care for women and families experiencing early pregnancy or acute gynaecological complications including miscarriage and baby loss.

Chief Nursing Officer Sarah Cullen is proud of the progress made to transform the service: “Since 2022, the number of patients accessing the GEPAU has increased significantly, so it has never been more important to redesign the space with service users and their families in mind. Thanks to all involved for working hard to improve the gynaecology and early pregnancy services, and the environment.”

One of the main remits of the unit is to support women who experience miscarriage. Miscarriage is the most common kind of pregnancy loss, affecting around one in four pregnancies. This can be a devastating experience and often leaves parents, siblings and extended family members heartbroken. While it is not possible to prevent these losses from occurring, we can ensure that each grieving parent receives excellent care and compassionate support, so redesigning the environment was a priority project as part a vision to improve early pregnancy experience.

Thanks to charitable funding, the refurbishment has relocated and rebuilt the scanning facility, provided a dedicated ambulatory care suite for women who experience hyperemesis gravidarum and created a welcoming space for women and families attending the department. The redesign has been co-produced with feedback from service users, ensuring women’s voices were heard and asking families to share deeply personal accounts of their experiences has ensured that the new design is reflective of the needs of the people using our service.

Jo Lambert, Divisional Midwifery and Nursing Director, said: “The introduction of a dedicated specialist nurse, and the upgrade to the estate, is part of a long-term women’s health improvement plan aligned with the NHS Women’s Health Strategy (2022). As such, we remain committed to improving early pregnancy care and the lived experience and outcomes for women and their families who use our service.”

In addition to creating a more responsive environment, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals has taken proactive steps to meet national recommendations for bereavement care. The national bereavement care pathway 2016, the women’s health strategy (2021) and the pregnancy loss review 2023 all recommend that every woman should have access to bereavement care and support no matter the gestation when it occurs. In response to this, in December, the Trust appointed an early pregnancy loss bereavement specialist nurse. This role, funded for two years by Baby Beat, aims to provide much needed aftercare to women and families experiencing pregnancy loss under 16 weeks.   

David Styles, Gynaecology Services Matron, added: “We are committed to improving our patient experience and this project is one of the important steps in that journey, along with the introduction of a pregnancy loss bereavement specialist nurse. We are truly grateful to the Trust and Baby Beat for funding this project to enable us to improve the care of our patients and families accessing our emergency gynaecology and early pregnancy services.”

Dan Hill, Head of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s charity family, said: “Baby Beat is incredibly proud to have helped fund such an important project which will greatly improve the experience of women and their families accessing our emergency gynaecology and early pregnancy services. We are confident that the specialised and purpose-built space will improve a patient’s journey at a time that can be traumatic and distressing, especially when suffering a miscarriage. We are so grateful to all our supporters who have made this refurbishment possible.”