WHEN mums in the Wallingford area call the midwife, they are lucky if they get Pauline Ellaway on the phone.

For the mum-of-three has 27 years’ experience delivering babies and has just picked up a regional award.

Mrs Ellaway, 50, from Abingdon, is among the eight-strong team of midwives at Wallingford Hospital who care for 230 mums a year. She has won the Johnson’s Baby Mums’ Regional Midwife of the Year award for the South & Midlands, but missed out on the national title.

And she has welcomed a £340,000 funding boost from the Department of Health to improve facilities at the maternity unit, as reported in the Oxford Mail.

One of two team leaders at the Reading Road hospital, Mrs Ellaway, who estimates she has delivered more than 1,000 babies, said: “I’ve watched Call the Midwife a few times, but it’s entertainment, not real life.

“Things are a lot more hi-tech these days and we have cars instead of bikes, and mobile phones.

“I’m delighted to get this award, and getting the funding for the unit is like winning the lottery.

“The unit will be adapted and it will be fantastic for the mums who use this hospital.

“Hopefully it will lead to an increase in the number of mums who use it.”

Mrs Ellaway, who lives with husband Maurice, was nominated for her award by Emily Townsend, following the birth of her son Douglas at the hospital in May.

Mrs Ellaway added: “I was on a day off and I came in in the evening to deliver the baby. Members of my team get to know the mums very well and we put ourselves on call.”

Mrs Townsend, 33, from Cholsey, said: “I met Pauline a few times during my first pregnancy and the complicated birth, so I was delighted when I found out she would be my midwife for my second pregnancy and immediately felt at ease.”

Interest in midwifery has grown, thanks to the popularity of BBC drama series Call the Midwife, starring Miranda Hart. It is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth.

The midwifery-led unit will now be revamped with more birthing pools and en suite bathrooms. At the moment, mums-to-be have to share two bathrooms.

The hospital is one of 100 sharing £25m of Department of Health funding for maternity units, with the money last week allocated to Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Currently there are no en suite facilities, but following the revamp there will be two ensuite birthing rooms with birthing pools, an additional birthing room, and ensuite facilities for the postnatal ward.

Town mayor Ros Lester said: “My daughter Claire, who is now 39 and has two daughters herself, was one of the first babies to be born at the hospital.

“This is good news for the town.”

It is not yet known how long it will take to complete the revamp, but a Department for Health spokesman said: “I’m sure there’s an expectation that the improvements are delivered as soon as possible.”

There are also maternity units at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and the Horton Hospital in Banbury, a midwifery-led unit at the JR called Oxford Spires, and a midwifery-led unit at Wantage Community Hospital.

Births were suspended at Chipping Norton Hospital’s maternity unit in October for a review of working practices.

It has not yet reopened.