THE Princess Royal recently paid a surprise visit to Stroud Maternity Hospital.

Princess Anne was given a tour of the unit on Friday, March 22 where around 300 are born each year.

The princess met with mothers, babies and staff at the centre which is run by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 

Princess Anne, the patron of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends, also met with volunteers from the charity that supports the centre.

For decades, the League has helped fund refurbishment projects and provide additional equipment for Stroud Maternity.

Photos from Princess Anne's visit 

For all photos see our picture gallery 

Stroud News and Journal: Princess Anne meeting mothers and babies at Stroud Maternity HospitalPrincess Anne meeting mothers and babies at Stroud Maternity Hospital (Image: Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust)

Stroud News and Journal: Princess Anne meeting with mothers, babies and staff at Stroud Maternity Hospital

Stroud News and Journal: Princess Anne meeting with mothers, babies and staff at Stroud Maternity Hospital

Royal visit was a "lovely surprise"

More recently, from 2017, the League's support has funded free singing and yoga sessions for mothers and babies at the hospital.

It comes as Stroud Maternity was rated by health watchdog Care Quality Commission as “requires improvement” last week. 

In recent years, the town's maternity unit has also severely been affected by national staffing shortages.

Dr Roma Walker, chair of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends said: “We are really proud to show Her Royal Highness some of the work we have been doing with the maternity service in supporting mothers, babies and families. 

“We have continued to grow what we are able to offer, from yoga and singing to practical support and companionship for new mothers.”

“We believe that there are not many maternity units in the country that are able to provide the range and quality of additional support that the League of Friends has helped make possible, in our unique partnership with Stroud Maternity.”

One such group is the monthly infant sleep peer support group, led by practitioners. 

All groups are offered free of charge, ensuring accessibility for mothers and families who might otherwise face financial barriers.

During the visit, the princess had the opportunity to personally witness the impact of the League's initiatives on the maternity unit.

Lisa Stephens, director of Midwifery at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This was a really special day for our staff, volunteers, mums and families and a memory they will cherish for years to come. 

“It was a lovely surprise for the women and families in the unit, who were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and chat with a member of the Royal Family.

“It was an opportunity for the maternity team to showcase the dedication they bring to providing women with the best possible care and choices during their maternity journey."

Following a visit in December last year, CQC inspectors said they were "disappointed" in the standard of care being offered.

Meanwhile, a ward with six postnatal beds at Stroud Maternity was suspended in September 2022 due to the staffing shortage. 

This closure means that beds are only available for six to 12 hours following a birth. 

As a result, new mums who require extra care are offered the option of home visits or attending another centre.

In November 2022, hundreds took to the streets to protest over the continued closure of the postnatal beds at Stroud Maternity.