Oswestry Maternity Unit closed for the foreseeable future

David Walker outside Oswetry Maternity Unit

SaTH announced on the 19th of June that the Oswestry Maternity Unit along with the Bridgnorth and Ludlow units were going to remain closed for the foreseeable future. Previously SaTH were seeking people’s views on the temporary suspensions, and whether rotating 4 week suspensions of inpatient services is a ‘Good’ solution to the staff shortages problem. Now they will remain closed until the conclusion of consultations about their future, possibly indefinitely.

Residents, parents and politicians of all colours continue to express outrage at the ongoing Maternity Unit saga. After prolonged closures due to staff shortages at Telford – where expectant and recovering mothers were expected to use Telford or Wrexham units instead – we are now into a new set of extended closures. Many us have said that these closures are designed to run the service down to the point that they can justify permanent closures. This is a tactic that has been used before with Schools, Police, Fire and Ambulance stations to close facilities by stealth.

Repeated suspensions aren’t good for parent’s peace of mind at critical times of pre and post-natal care. Neither are temporary closures on an extended basis. Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. Rural MLUs like Oswestry Maternity Unit should be open 24/7.

It would seem quite obvious that if you put parents off using a service by creating uncertainty, then they will stop using it. Using those reduced numbers to justify a closure is dishonest and disingenuous.

Campaigners have hit out at misleading figures that have been used to justify the closures.

I volunteered as a Marshall for the march from The Bailey Head to Oswestry Maternity Unit last year.
I volunteered as a Marshall for the march from The Bailey Head to Oswestry Maternity Unit last year.

SaTH press release

Temporary suspension of services at Bridgnorth, Oswestry and Ludlow MLUs to continue

19 June 2018

Inpatient services, including births, at Bridgnorth, Oswestry and Ludlow Midwife Led Units (MLUs) are to remain temporarily suspended in order to safely staff the units where most of our mothers are giving birth, as a period of focused engagement with service users begins.

The current suspension of births at the three MLUs will continue until the outcome of a period of engagement is known. This is to ensure the safe care of mums using Shropshire’s maternity services.

The suspension of inpatient services (births and postnatal care) will continue from 8am tomorrow (Wednesday 20 June). All three units will remain open between 8am and 8pm for antenatal and postnatal services.

Women booked to give birth at Bridgnorth, Oswestry and Ludlow MLUs who go into labour during this time will be offered a birth at either Shrewsbury or Wrekin MLU or the Consultant Led Unit at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford; or they may choose the option of a home birth. If any women due to give birth at Bridgnorth, Oswestry or Ludlow MLU require support during this time they will be able to access a Midwife. All women potentially affected by the suspensions are being contacted.

Sarah Jamieson, Head of Midwifery at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), which runs the MLUs, said: “The circumstances which led to our decision to suspend some services from the 20 May remain unchanged. Unfortunately the issues which have been affecting our maternity service continue. With over 98% of our women giving birth away from our rural MLUs, we are having to deploy our midwives where our mothers are choosing, or are being assessed as needing, to be and ensure that our Consultant Led Unit and our larger Midwife Led Units are safely staffed.

“We are planning a period of focused engagement with our service users, during which time we will be seeking their views and feeding these back to the Trust Board. The time period for the engagement and details regarding how to get involved will be released shortly.

“I must again reiterate that decisions over staffing are made purely on the basis of safety. The safety of women and babies using our maternity services has been, and always will be, our number one priority.

“I would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause.”

Oswestry Maternity Unit Saga Drags on

Residents, parents, local Conservatives, Lib Dems & Greens continue to express outrage as the ongoing Oswestry Maternity Unit saga drags on. After a prolonged closure due to staff shortages at Telford – when expectant and recovering mothers were expected to use Telford or Wrexham units instead – we are now into a new set of more temporary closures. This ran for several months last year.

Whilst these suspensions are more than just frustrating for the parents they may also be a cynical ploy to run the service down to the point where the Midwife-Led Units close. Repeated suspensions aren’t good for parent’s peace of mind at critical times of pre and post-natal care. Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7.

Oswestry Maternity Unit Saga Drags on. David outside the Oswestry Maternity Unit said: "Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7"
David outside the Oswestry Maternity Unit said: “Parents rightly expect to plan ahead and this mess can’t continue. MLUs should be open 24/7”

SaTH is seeking people’s views on temporary suspensions, and whether rotating 4-week suspensions of inpatient services is a ‘Good’ solution to the staff shortages problem.

If you are on Facebook and you haven’t signed up to follow the Save Oswestry Maternity Unit page then I would urge you to sign up and support the campaign to keep the MLU open 24/7.

Oswestry Maternity Unit saga drags on. David Walker marshalling at the 2nd march against closures last year
Marshalling at the 2nd march against closures last year

MLU protest march II

Yesterday supporters of the MLU joined a march in support of keeping the MLU open without any service reduction. The march started at The Bailey Head and from Gobowen Station and converging at the MLU.

I volunteered as a Marshal for the March from The Bailey Head.

The march was extremely well supported and plenty of media coverage on the day. In glorious weather, we made our way via Burma Road, Park Hall and received plenty of support along the route.

The march was to protest at the ‘temporary’ closure of the units in Oswestry, Ludlow and Bridgnorth in order to prioritise the units at Telford, and at the proposed introduction of an on-call midwife system across rural Shropshire.

This was the second protest march. The first was back in March Shropshire MLU marches & SaTH meeting

Shropshire MLU marches & SaTH meeting

David Walker enjoying the atmosphere and the weather at the Oswestry MLU protest

Last Saturday, 25th of March, LibDems joined hundreds of parents, children and concerned Shropshire residents to march against the threat to downgrade Shropshire’s Maternity Units. SaTH had previously produced a report as part of their budget which identified downgrading the units to Birthing Units, where expectant mothers would need to make an appointment to give birth at night.

Oswestry and Bridgnorth both had a march on Saturday. Ludlow had previously held a march to support their unit. Both were extremely well attended and the weather was glorious.

In Bridgnorth, they marched through the High Street to the Castle Grounds. Whilst in Oswestry they met in Cae Glas Park and paraded around the park. Both marches had a great turn out. Thank you to everybody who organised the marches and who attended to show their support.

Protesters marching through the park
Protesters marching through the park

The MLUs needs to stay open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Expectant mothers can’t be expected to deliver to order and to an appointment. Many sources have responded to campaigners that the MLUs aren’t going to be downgraded. Campaigners have remained cynical and kept up the pressure and the protest. The marches just being one element of that protest.

Late yesterday it emerged that SaTH were still going to go ahead with the downgrading the MLUs to a Birthing Units. The report for today’s board meeting shows that they aren’t going to be open at night, except for mothers already in labour.  Anybody who going into labour will either have to go elsewhere in an ambulance or potentially deliver in a car. Delivery can’t be planned to that extent so this policy is bonkers. Campaigners are rightly angry that they won’t have the same access to postnatal care after the downgrade.

If you haven’t signed the petitions of the Government website yet here are the links to both petitions:

Save Oswestry Maternity Unit

Save Bridgnorth and Ludlow Maternity Units

Both petitions are currently running at about 2,200 online signatures at the time of writing this. There are the same again on the paper petition.

Follow the campaign on the Save Oswestry Maternity Unit Facebook Group