Fury over 'farcical' birth consultation
HEALTH bosses are recommending scrapping midwife-led birth centres at Canterbury and Dover hospitals after a public consultation that campaigners have slammed as "farcical and outrageous".
The Eastern and Coastal Kent NHS Primary Care Trust this week published its maternity services review findings – with the recommendation that the birth centres be mothballed in favour of reopening one at Margate.
The trust says staffing pressures at Ashford hospital, where there has been just one midwife for every 40 births, compared to Canterbury and Dover's ratios of one midwife per nine births, meant a restructure was urgent.
In a report due to be presented to the PCT's board yesterday (Wednesday) by Dr Sarah Montgomery, health bosses recommended that the two birthing centres be closed because experienced staff are needed on high-risk wards.
But David Shortt of the campaign group Concern for Health in East Kent criticised the consultation as farcical.
He said: "Three possible options were proposed – option one to close both Canterbury and Dover birthing centres; option two to close only Dover; and option three to close only Canterbury.
"Under each option the new birthing unit at the QEQM Hospital in Margate would be opened after being mothballed many months ago.
"The result of the consultation (independently analysed by Greenwich University) is pretty clear: option one 38.4 per cent support it; option two 41.3 per cent support it; option three 20.4 per cent support it...
"Yet the PCT has decided to ignore the result, which was arrived at democratically, and to pursue its preferred option in any case.
"This is absolutely outrageous. What exactly is the point of a consultation if you ignore the outcome, and why bother proposing a range of options if there was never any intention to pick any but the preferred one?"
Dr Montgomery insisted that parents' views had been taken into consideration.
She said: "We listened very carefully to what people told us during the three-month consultation and we would like to thank everyone for sharing their views and experiences.
"While the Maternity Services Group recognised that there was a small preference – just 11 votes – in favour of retaining Canterbury birth centre, there was also very strong support for midwife-led services to be located next to consultant-led wards as mothers-to-be can enjoy the benefits of a natural, calm, and home-like birth with the reassurance of rapid access to doctors if need be.
"In making our recommendation, we could not compromise on our guarantee to provide one-to-one care from a midwife in established labour for everybody."
Canterbury birth centre would remain open during the day for antenatal and post natal care.
Bosses want to improve telephone support and advice and to allow partners to stay for 24 hours on postnatal wards.
Postnatal care would also be improved and antenatal classes would be reviewed.