A hospital trust has suspended the use of gas and air for women in labour at its maternity units.  

The North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust – which runs Hinchingbrooke Hospital, in Huntingdon, and Peterborough City Hospital – says ventilation issues at both hospitals mean the gas is a risk to staff.

Other hospitals across the country have had to take similar steps, which prompted the trust to investigate the issue.  

And late Friday afternoon (February 24), it announced the use of Entonox, the brand name for the gas and air, would be suspended immediately. 

Jo Bennis, the trust’s chief nurse, said: “Following concerns raised at other NHS hospitals, we have undertaken thorough testing of the atmosphere in our maternity units at both Peterborough City and Hinchingbrooke Hospitals with regard to the levels of nitrous oxide arising from the patient use of Entonox (gas and air).  

“After finding higher levels of residual gas and air in the atmosphere than is deemed normal, we made the decision on February 24 to suspend the use of gas and air in our units.  

“It’s a decision we have not taken lightly, but it has been made to protect our midwifery and medical team who are likely to be exposed to high levels of Entonox for a prolonged period of time.” 

The Hunts Post: Hinchingbrooke Hospital, in Huntingdon. Hinchingbrooke Hospital, in Huntingdon. (Image: Archant)

She added: “We hope to resolve this issue as soon as possible.  

“We are very sorry that women using our service don’t have access to Entonox at the moment, but we would like to reassure them that every other kind of pain relief is available.” 

Hospitals across the country have had to take similar action, for similar reasons, in recent weeks. 

Midwifery teams across Hinchingbrooke Hospital and Peterborough City Hospital are currently speaking to expectant mothers about alternative pain relief options.   

A post outlining the issue on Facebook also clarified the home birth service will still be able to provide gas and air in homes. 

It said: “None of us want our women to be without the option for gas and air during labour.

“We promise to communicate with you again as soon as we have an update.”   

The Hunts Post: Peterborough City Hospital, in Peterborough.Peterborough City Hospital, in Peterborough. (Image: NEWSQUEST)

But the initial announcement still came as a shock to expectant mothers in the later stages of their pregnancy, with many sharing their concerns under the Facebook post.  

They are being given the option of switching to a homebirth or to another maternity unit.   

Urgent cases should call either the Maternity Helpline at PCH on 01733 677266 or the Labour Ward at Hinchingbrooke on 01480 847480/81.    

Sarah Drawwater, a doula based in Ramsey, is offering her online hypnobirthing course for free to families due to birth in these hospitals.  

Known as The Nostalgic Doula, contact her through Instagram for more information.  

  • Will the suspension of gas and air affect your labour? Email louise.hepburn@newsquest.co.uk