We'll march to save maternity services

Reporter:

Emily Davies

A campaign to protect maternity services in Oswestry is heating up after councillors dubbed new proposals as “unworkable and dangerous”.

The damning description came from Selattyn and Gobowen Parish Council, who say the most recent suspensions of delivery services at the midwife-led unit at the Orthopaedic Hospital, Gobowen, run by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) has equated to a 42 per cent closure period.

However, that does not include last week’s extension which means the unit will not be open to those in labour or requiring post-natal care until July 11.

The council has now written to North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson supporting the demand for full-time rural maternity services across Shropshire, saying: “It is an unworkable and dangerous model and one which would also immediately bring an end to postnatal care.

“In doing this, SaTH is showing a complete disregard for the Better Births national maternity review, which is strongly supportive of local, accessible, community-based midwife-led units.

“SaTH’s priority seems to be to implement cost-driven cuts to the maternity service, with little or no interest in the needs of women in our rural communities.”

The critism comes as maternity service campaigners said they plan to take to the streets of Oswestry next month and march in protest at the threat facing rural units on Sunday, July 9.

The demonstration will see supporters gather on the Bailey Head at 10.30am and converge on the midwife-led unit at the Orthopaedic Hospital, with the possibility of simultaneous marches from Gobowen and Whittington.

Liz Grayston launched the Save Oswestry Maternity Unit group at the end of last year after the unit – and those in Bridgnorth and Ludlow – was put forward to become a birthing unit meaning it would be open as usual during the day, but at night would only be an ‘on-call’ service for women in labour.

But the mum-of-four, who is leading the march, said many people fear the suspensions are part of a plan to close the unit, despite North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson saying there is “categorically no intention” to close it following a meeting with SaTH chief executive Simon Wright.

She added: “We think there will be more stories of midwives not making births because we are not set up for an on-call midwife service People will not want to give birth at Oswestry because they won’t be able to get post-natal support there, so they won’t use it and then health bosses will close it.”

The extension of the delivery services suspension last week came just hours after it had due to be lifted in Oswestry.

It was again put down to “staff sickness” which has been affecting the maternity service provided by The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) for many weeks.

Anthea Gregory-Page, deputy head of Midwifery at SaTH, said women due to give birth at the MLU have been informed and offered an alternative location to give birth, while day services, such as antenatal classes, will continue. She added: “We appreciate the suspension of any service is unpopular, but I would like to reiterate this is being done purely to manage our current situation and to ensure the on-going safety of the women in our care. I would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

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