A portable ultrasound scanner that will help care for women at high risk of giving birth prematurely is now in use at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage, thanks to charity funding.

The £24,000 Sonosite Edge II machine, purchased by the East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ Charity, will provide doctors and midwives with more information so they can take steps to prevent early labour and birth, and thus reduce the risk of complications this causes. 

It will also reduce the number of appointments some expectant mums will need to attend, making the experience far more convenient.

Consultant Obstetrician Dr Rachel Woolridge said: “Around 8% of women are assessed at their booking appointment to be of high risk of pre-term birth based on their medical history. This means up to 400 women a year at our maternity unit require specialist care.

“This correct identification gives us a window of opportunity to take some extra steps, which have been shown to help either prolong the pregnancy or reduce subsequent neonatal morbidity and mortality.

“Because it’s portable, the ultrasound scanner will allow cervical length scanning within our new specialist preterm birth antenatal clinic. This point-of-care assessment with a consultant will improve clinical outcomes and overall patient experience. 

“It is also convenient for women as it reduces the number of appointments they need to attend and the length of time they spend travelling and waiting to be seen, which is more important than ever in these current times.”

The scanner was officially unveiled at the Stevenage hospital’s maternity unit earlier this month at a ceremony attended by representatives of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust. Also in attendance was Stacey Hunt, a Stevenage mum who gave birth to baby Frankie in May and received care from the Lister’s maternity and neonatal units.

Head of Charity Beth McNeil said: “The East and North Hertfordshire Hospitals’ Charity is dedicated to raising funds for the very best medical equipment to enhance treatment and care above the remit of the NHS. The scanner is just one of the examples of kit we have funded this year to support our trust.

“The ultrasound scanner will make a huge difference to hundreds of mums-to-be and their families and we are delighted to be able to fund it for the maternity department.”

PHOTO: The Sonosite portable ultrasound scanner is unveiled at the Lister Hospital’s maternity unit. From left, Dr Mona Modi, Stacey Hunt with baby Frankie, and Dr Rachel Wooldridge