Wiltshire Publications

Westbury mums-to-be face longer journeys if Trowbridge birthing unit closes

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A PROPOSAL to close Trowbridge Hospital’s birthing unit has been criticised by local health campaigners.

Expectant Westbury mothers will be forced to travel further afield to give birth if plans announced by the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) go ahead. The proposal will mean that the birthing unit in Trowbridge will only provide pre- and post-natal services.

Local health campaigner and former chair of the Westbury League of Friends, Erica Watson, told White Horse News, “I feel that there will be a huge impact on low income and vulnerable families, many of whom have no transport and already struggle to access ante and post natal care in Trowbridge. 

“I question why so many services are being removed from West Wiltshire towns, all of whom are experiencing a growth in population, with increased housebuilding, but no growth in the vital infrastructure needed to support the growing number of needs. 

“Vulnerable families will be left more disadvantaged by moving services far away and difficult to access. More missed appointments and opportunities for professionals to advise and support new parents will be inevitable. 

“There will be an inevitable impact on the roads and ambulance service, with more and more cars needing to travel to reach care. 

“Continuity of care will be compromised, with vulnerable mothers being cared for by staff who have no knowledge of their needs or history. 

“Will midwives be home-visiting post-natal mothers unable to travel to access care? It is rare for a midwife to visit at home at present, so will this change? Who will be offering breast feeding support in the home?

“The press release (by the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group) quotes  “vastly increased pressure on services at the RUH” and yet proposes to further increase that pressure by this plan. The release also talks about more choice for parents – I see less choice if they are unable to access maternity services locally. 

“Also mentioned is “support closer to home” – where will this support be? Will Westbury’s ante- and post-natal service be reinstated? Trowbridge is not close to home for Westbury families without transport and yet once again the Westbury community are expected to travel to access vital care.”

The free standing midwifery units in Chippenham and Frome will remain open for births. Midwives from Trowbridge and Paulton  in Bristol would be relocated to new midwifery units at Bath Royal United Hospital and Salisbury District Hospital. In Swindon, the White Horse Birth Centre is at the Great Western Hospital.

The changes to maternity services across Bath and North East Somerset (BANES), Swindon and Wiltshire have been proposed in response to figures that reveal less mothers are choosing to give birth in the four freestanding midwifery units in Chippenham, Trowbridge, Paulton  (Bristol) and Frome.

In 2017, 149 babies were born at Trowbridge Hospital compared to approximately 9,600 babies at  the obstetrics units at the Royal United Hospital, Salisbury District Hospital and Great Western Hospital combined.

Sarah Merritt, head of nursing and midwifery at Royal United Hospital, Bath said, “85% of women give birth in one of the three obstetric units, with fewer than 6% giving birth across our four freestanding midwifery units. 

“We believe we have the right number and mix of staff but they’re not based in the right locations to ensure efficient use of our resources and provide women with the services they need. 

“In our freestanding midwifery units – particularly at night – staff are covering areas even when there are no or very few births. On average only one baby is delivered every two or three days in each of these units but they need to be staffed to support births 24 hours a day seven days a week.”

A consultation on the proposal will run until 24th February 2019, after which a decision will be made on the future of births at Trowbridge Hospital by the spring. More information can be found on the website: www.transformingmaternity.org.uk