A SPECIALIST unit which scans and assess expectant mums is celebrating its 20th birthday.

The early pregnancy assessment unit at Warrington Hospital opened in May 1997.

Thousands of pregnant women, including many from Runcorn and Widnes, have been checked ahead of the birth of their little ones.

Senior nurse clinician Anne Howard, who has worked on the unit since it first opened, said: “It was part of a national movement to set up early pregnancy clinics and I was fortune to be given six months to go round the country to see how other services were run before feeding back what would work here.

“Around 75 per cent of gynaecological emergencies are related to early pregnancy.

“Probably 95 per cent of our patients are now managed by nurses and very few need to see a doctor.

“We are offering a service that is always going to be needed – demand is growing and expectations are growing."

Mums-to-be go to the nurse-led unit for scans if they encounter any issues between six and 18 weeks into their pregnancy.

Women who have previously experienced a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy will also go there as a precaution.

The unit now sees nearly double the amount of patients it did 20 years ago, up to around 3,500 pregnant women every year from 2,000.

It has also had visitors from other hospitals across the UK as well as Australia.

Anne added: “The job is similar in the fact that you are seeing patients and are part of that early pregnancy excitement, but also sharing the disappointment when things go wrong.

“Obviously it is nice when it is a positive outcome, but when you can help to support people through a distressing and traumatic time it is really rewarding.

“The team is very close-knit and you can develop nurses to run a service.

“A lot of the staff who have been part of this service have actually gone on to more advanced practitioner roles within this and other trusts.

“From a nursing point of view, to see staff develop those skills is really rewarding."