A hospital trust is to introduce dedicated home birth midwives in a bid to increase the number of mothers who give birth at home.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has announced plans to increase midwife support for home births as figures show the number of babies born at home continues to fall.
New figures obtained by The Argus show the number of home births at the trust dropped by nearly a quarter last year with just 185 of more than 6,000 births carried out at home.
It was a similar situation at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, where the number of home births dropped by a third from 211 in 2007 to 135 in 2012.
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust bucked the trend with home births increasing slightly from 197 in 2007 to 227 last year, although they still accounted for just 4% of all births.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had previously said that as many as one in three of all births could be carried out in the home, but nationally the number is just one in 40.
A home birth costs hospital trusts £600 less than a hospital birth, meaning that Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust could save more than £1 million a year if they hit the Royal College’s target.
The trust said it will provide dedicated midwives able to attend home births as soon as they are called by the parents and it was reintroducing home visits for families considering home births to discuss their options.
Birth teacher Claire Cornthwaite, who runs a series of groups for mothers in Hove, said: “Often the support network for having a home birth just isn’t there.
“There is a need for more midwives not just in Brighton and it would help more mothers to choose a home birth if they had the same midwife throughout their antenatal care.”
A BSUH Trust spokesman said: “Although as a trust we have a view that we always attend home births as a priority, we have listened to what some families have said and are set to change the way we provide the home birth service in the near future.”