In Leeds, a groundbreaking addition to libraries is providing valuable support to parents and families, thanks to the collaboration between local midwives, healthcare professionals, and the library services.

Known as “wellbeing pods,” these innovative spaces have been officially launched in eight of the city’s libraries and community hubs, marking the first time such facilities have been integrated into a library service in the UK.

This joint venture between the NHS in Leeds and Leeds Libraries involves converting old interview rooms or installing standalone, enclosed pods to create small, clinical spaces. The pods are then made available to midwives and other NHS services, who directly manage their appointments with patients.

Inside each pod, one can find essential amenities like an examination bed, sink, seating area, and a rack filled with informational leaflets. The versatility of these pods allows midwives and other healthcare professionals to utilise them effectively. Particularly, they prove to be immensely beneficial for maternity services. Midwives can introduce families to various related services offered within libraries and community hubs, and also introduce them to the staff who can assist with diverse needs, ranging from benefits advice to engaging story and rhyme sessions on the story bus.

By integrating healthcare services into the welcoming atmosphere of libraries, these wellbeing pods offer a holistic approach to supporting families, providing them with both essential medical assistance and access to enriching activities and resources. The initiative showcases a pioneering model that could potentially inspire similar programs in other regions, benefiting communities across the country.

Midwife Charlotte Compton, who works at the Compton Centre Community Hub and Library, said: “The hub at the Compton Centre provides a welcoming, safe space for women in the local area to access maternity care. It is a well-known location and very accessible for people to get to. It also enables women to access other services being offered here whilst they visit.”

Andrea Ellison, Leeds Libraries’ chief librarian, added: “We’re incredibly proud that ours are the very first libraries and community hubs in the country offering this hugely important new service to people in local communities in Leeds.

“Our libraries are welcoming, accessible and friendly spaces where people can already find a huge range of information and advice. By giving local people this new opportunity to see a midwife or healthcare professional when they visit their local library, we are linking even more of the city’s support services together and further emphasising the role which libraries play at the heart of our communities.”

A celebration event took place last week at Hunslet Community Library, with speakers including councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, public health and active lifestyles.

The event included more information about the pods, as well as a visit from the library service’s storybus, a story time session, play facilities for families, crafting and stalls from maternity services with information on other offers around the city for families.

Councillor Arif said: “This is a fantastic initiative that will give local people more choice about where and how they want to access important healthcare services.

“We’re delighted to be partnering with the NHS in Leeds to make these spaces available and bring integral community services together under one roof.”

Wellbeing Pods are currently situated in eight libraries and community hubs: Armley, Compton, Headingley, Holt Park, Hunslet, Reginald Centre, St. George’s Centre, Seacroft.