PREGNANT women in Wirral are to receive care from a private company.

Wirral Primary Care Trust has given the green light for One to One midwives to offer their services to the borough's mums-to-be.

And union bosses hope the move will act as an "add-on" rather than a full replacement of NHS care.

However, Wirral Labour group leader Steve Foulkes branded the action as "privatisation by the back door" and fears it could trigger more private companies moving in on public services.

Cllr Foulkes said: “We should be very cautious about this announcement. There has been little or no consultation with elected members in Wirral and no analysis has been carried out.

"We have always predicted that Government cuts would lead to private companies coming in and dealing with our frontline services.

"How many times have we heard that a private service will 'complement' a public one?

"The next thing we know is that all of the work gets handed over to them completely. It is a very dangerous move and we should be given more information about it."

The company will provide "community midwifery services" to expectant mothers, looking after them throughout their pregnancy as well as dealing with home births.

Commenting on the tendering out of ante-and post-natal care in Wirral, Frances Day-Stirk, Director of Learning Research and Practice development, at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “We are watching developments around this with interest.

"If the service enhances choice for women then this is perhaps something that should be considered seriously.

"The RCM has no objections to relatively small-scale provision of services by non NHS providers. However, we would be deeply concerned if a tendering of services out to a private organisation led to job losses among NHS staff.

"We would see this as an add-on service, not a replacement for what the NHS should be providing. It does however, raise questions as to why this service cannot be provided in the NHS."

But an NHS Wirral spokesman said the introduction of One-to-One would a give a complementary service to that already offered by the NHS and that the services would continue to be given via the main hospital.

The spokesman said: "GP Consortia, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and One to One midwives are signed up to developing joint working. "Wirral Women and Children's Hospital at Arrowe Park is working with One to One to ensure that patients who book with them receive appropriate services when access to hospital based maternity services are required."