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New unit brings expert care for unborn babies to Southend

29 October 2014

Health Care

The latest and very best of care for women and their unborn child is now a reality at Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, thanks to the opening of a dedicated fetal medicine unit.

The unit, the only one of its kind in Essex, is set to become a leading regional clinical and research centre for the assessment and treatment of unborn babies.

The state-of-the art suite, which includes seven scanning rooms, has been made possible thanks to a £400,000 charitable donation from the foundation set up by world leading fetal medicine expert Professor Kypros Nicolaides.

Fetal medicine includes the assessment of fetal growth and wellbeing, the maintenance of fetal health and the diagnosis of fetal illnesses and abnormalities.

The Southend unit will be affiliated to the world renowned Kings College fetal medicine centre in London run by Prof Nicolaides, where women from the local area would have typically been referred.

Subspecialist maternal fetal medicine consultant Mr Mandeep Singh who trained under Prof. Nicolaides, heads up the new service and works jointly between the two hospitals.

Scans in the unit will be carried out by research fellows - consultants who are specialising in fetal medicine - which enables a more detailed scan to be undertaken resulting in improved detection rates.

Mr Singh said: "Women with suspected fetal problems are understandably anxious and rightly require access to specialist services as soon as possible to understand any problem with baby and what the possible options are with continuing their pregnancy.

"Having this sort of expertise locally, from finding a problem through to supporting women in whatever choices they make, will do much to improve their experience of what can often be a traumatic and upsetting diagnosis."

As well as the diagnosis and treatment of fetal abnormalities, the unit is already participating in international clinical research, including a study into pre-eclampsia, a potentially life threatening condition for both mum and baby which is often not diagnosed until late into pregnancy.

Colleen Begg, head of midwifery and gynaecology at the trust added: "This is a tremendously exciting development of our services for women here at Southend Hospital which has only been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Fetal Medicine Foundation and we are extremely grateful both for the donation and Prof Nicolaides' personal help in establishing this unit which will make such a difference for our local population."