EAST Lancashire’s birthing units are ‘setting the standard’ for the rest of the country, according to a TV presenter and health campaigner.

Beverley Turner, who used to present ITV’s Formula One coverage and now runs a top ante-natal course in London, visited Blackburn Birthing Centre with two other ‘VIPs’, following the publication of national guidance that more women should opt to give birth at midwife-led units, or at home.

She was joined by Maggie Howell, managing director of Natal Hypnotherapy and Pam Wild, an independent midwife who has helped hundreds of mums, including Beverley and Davina McCall, deliver their children at home.

Last week, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence said more women should be encouraged to give birth with the help of midwives, rather than being admitted to a traditional doctor-led labour ward. Earlier this year East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was named the ‘Maternity Service of the Year’ by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), after being praised for supporting staff, promoting ‘normal births’ and reducing caesarean section rates.

The controversial closure of Blackburn’s doctor-led maternity unit in 2010 was cited as a key reason for improved care, as the trust has been able to focus specialist doctor-led care at Burnley General Hospital.

But the closure also brought the development of three midwife-led birthing centres, in Burnley, Blackburn and Rossendale. After visiting the Blackburn unit, Beverley, who is married to former Olympic rower James Cracknell, said: “It was wonderful to come and visit one of the few birth centres that set the standard for the rest of the country.

“To have outdoor space, vast rooms, deep pools and expert staff really is the ideal combination for any birthing woman.

“I will be telling everyone about the magnificent work that is happening at East Lancs."

Maggie Howell added: “With the draft NICE guidelines encouraging women to have their babies at birth centres, more women will feel confident in making the choice to have to use the birth centre.

“It would be wonderful to see more of these birth centres set up around the UK.”

The three midwife-led units are now delivering almost a third of East Lancashire’s babies.