The maternity team at Kingston Hospital have announced the introduction of a new fetal heart monitor that helps track the health of babies in the moments before birth.

Kingston NHS Foundation Trust said that the cutting edge technology would improve care during labour and birth and "make a real difference" to outcomes at the maternity unit.

The fetal heart monitor's official name is the ST-Analyser or 'STAN' machine.

STAN machines electronically analyse the heart rate patterns of babies during labour and birth, providing additional information for maternity staff that can help them reduce unnecessary intervention during labour.

Kingston Hospital pointed out that the machines are particularly useful for women experiencing more complex labours.

"By providing information to the midwives and obstetricians safe delivery can be undertaken when the baby is at risk, for example with emergency Caesarean, but intervention confidently avoided when it is not needed," a spokesperson said.

Annabelle Keegan, who is a lead midwife in the maternity unit, elaborated:

"We are all very excited about the introduction of this new system.

"It will really help towards improving the care offered to families due to increased surveillance of the fetal heart rate.

"This will provide extra reassurance for women and their families," she said.

Gina Brockwell, Director of Midwifery at the hospital, meanwhile pointed out that the machines would build on the efforts of the team at the maternity unit.

"We have done lots of work to continuously improve safety during childbirth which has included the launch of an innovative training programme for the maternity team.

"The importance of this was recognised by the award of a national Health Service Journal Award for Improving Outcomes through Learning and Development," she said.

Kingston Hospital has a popular maternity service with 5,000 babies born there last year alone.