A campaigner for the return of birthing services to Oswestry has urged Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to consider a temporary re-opening, despite forthcoming consultations to close the unit to births permanently.

Plans for a consultation on stopping births taking place at three midwife-led units (MLU) will go out to consultation in September, as proposed by Dr Jess Sokolov, CCG medical director, of Shropshire CCG, at units in Oswestry, Bridgnorth and Ludlow.

But Liz Grayston, a campaigner to return the MLU services to the town, believes the closure of the maternity unit at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital means services in the town are needed, but admitted she felt the consultation period is just the last step towards their permanent closure.

"I'm not sure that they can turn around and say they won't open again because there hasn't been a consultation," she said.

"They can say they have plans to never open the MLU again but they need to have the consultation, which they said would be around September.

"But it's all semantics isn't it? I'm sure they've made their mind up regarding what is going to happen.

"I'm not sure a consultation will help but there's a solid argument that they should re-open the unit.

"One in Walsall in the West Midlands will re-open soon to be staffed by midwives so it can be done.

"Low risk families will have said they're better off going to a hospital but I'm fairly sure that women and families in rural areas would want to give birth local to them.

"Wrexham's Maelor Hospital doesn't want to receive all of Shropshire - you can only give birth ion Telford and not enough is being made of that.

"You can say there's an argument to re-open Oswestry, even only on a temporary basis."

On Monday, Dr Sokolov told a meeting of Shropshire and Telford Council’s Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee, that she wants to keep births limited to Shrewsbury and Telford, but that other maternity services will continue to be offered at the midwife-led sites.

This will include scans, check-ups and mental health services.

She said bosses are currently aiming to put the plans out for consultation in September for a period of eight weeks, with a decision then taken on the future of the units.

She added: “We are aiming to have a case ready to go out to the public for September.

“The public consultation will last for eight weeks and we will have a website, an online survey and will also hold drop-in events.

“At the moment the rural midwife-led units will not have births taking place, they will be focused at Telford and Shrewsbury.

“However, other services will still be held at the rural units, including scans and mental health appointments.”

The three units at Oswestry, Ludlow and Bridgnorth, have been closed to births for 18 months, but are still used for ante and post-natal care.

Dr Sokolov added: “I cannot guarantee that what we come up with will be perfect forever and we will listen and act on things.

“I agree that a public consultation exercise will be listened to and acted upon.”

Last year, health bosses said more than 98 per cent of women were giving birth away from the rural midwife-led units and the trust has to deploy its midwives where women are choosing, or are being assessed as needing to be. 

The model also proposes offering five maternity ‘hubs’ which would provide midwifery care and a range of other services, open seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

Dr Sokolov added that mums will have access to a midwife 24/7 via phone or video call.