An NHS trust has become the first in the country to sign a contract with a private company to provide maternity care.
NHS Wirral has made a deal with One to One following a pilot scheme to provide services to women in the local area.
Those women opting to go with One to One will be provided with a midwife who sees them through all their antenatal care, birth of the baby and postnatal care.
This will be an alternative to the usual NHS services on offer, although One to One midwives will be able to go into NHS hospitals to deliver the baby if the woman has a hospital birth.
The company is now in talks with other NHS trusts around England and Wales about providing some of their maternity services. At present, the firm employs 28 people, including 20 midwives, but is looking to expand.
A statement from NHS Wirral said: "NHS Wirral is pleased to be able to offer women in Wirral a choice in how and where they would like their maternity care to be delivered. One to One Northwest provides an opportunity for midwives to offer a different style of care from hospital based maternity units, free at the point of delivery."
Jacque Gerrard, the Royal College of Midwives' director for England, said: "The RCM is aware of the progress made by One to One as a maternity service provider, and we welcome it as an add-on service for choice for women.
"However, we have reservations regarding the impact upon jobs for midwives in the NHS. We have formed a professional relationship with One to One to gain recognition for our members, as they will be an alternative employer for midwives."
Joanne Parkington, founder and clinical director of One to One, said: "We are thrilled that Wirral PCT has chosen to award One to One the contract to deliver our maternity care service to mothers-to-be in Wirral."
She said the service would "relieve the pressure on the existing NHS system and introduce a specialised service for teenagers and the most vulnerable".Suggest a correction