An NHS hospital trust in the Wirral has become the first in England to recruit a private company to provide maternity care.
The deal, made between NHS Wirral and private company One to One Midwifery, followed a pilot scheme in the area that involved 200 women.
Women opting to go with One to One will be provided with a personal midwife who sees them through all their antenatal care, the birth of the baby and postnatal care.
Women have access to their named midwife from 8am to 8pm every day, and round-the-clock access to another midwife if they need it.
One to One midwives will also be able to go into NHS hospitals to deliver the baby if a woman decides to have a hospital birth.
Joanne Parkington, founder and clinical director of One to One, said: "We are thrilled that Wirral PCT has chosen to award One to One the contract to deliver our maternity care service to mothers-to-be in Wirral."
She said the service would "relieve the pressure on the existing NHS system and introduce a specialised service for teenagers and the most vulnerable".
At present the One to One firm employs 28 people, including 20 midwives, but the company is now in talks with other NHS trusts in England and Wales about providing a choice of maternity services.
Women will not have to pay for this service if it has been commissioned in their area, regardless of risk.
Private medical insurance will only cover complications during pregnancy and birth, since a healthy pregnancy is not considered to be a medical condition.
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