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Trowbridge birthing unit axe branded a ‘backward step’

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A PROPOSAL to close Trowbridge Hospital’s birthing unit has been criticised and branded a ‘backward step’ by local residents.

Expectant Melksham 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.

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, Frome and Paulton (Bristol).

However, in last year’s CCG’s Strategic Outline Case for Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge, which announced a multi-million pound investment in health services in West Wiltshire, it was documented that in 2015/16 more births took place at Trowbridge birthing unit (330) than Chippenham birthing unit (220) – which is proposed to remain open as part of the plans. Predicted figures for 2025/26 shows the popularity of the Trowbridge unit will continue to rise, with 352 births in Trowbridge compared to 235 in Chippenham.

Local resident, Sam Selman said, “So the Wiltshire CCG plan to close the largest and most effective birthing unit in north-west Wiltshire and force the pregnant women to travel further, reducing birthing provision within north and west Wiltshire by well over 50%!

“Since it is unlikely that the Chippenham unit can cope with the increased workload, heavily pregnant women will have to travel further to a new Royal United Hospital unit in Bath.

“How do they justify closing a birthing unit that they themselves show is the largest and most popular in north-west Wiltshire?”

Andy Milroy added, “There is a very serious threat to maternity care in west Wiltshire. The maternity proposals put forward by the Wiltshire CCG are seriously flawed. Closing  Trowbridge maternity provision is both a backward step and also shows a poor understanding of the developing population demographics of west Wiltshire within the county.

“Centralising maternity delivery services in hospitals is a backward step. Closing local services places both the expectant mothers and the services under pressure.”

As part of the proposals,  the free standing midwifery units in Chippenham and Frome will remain open for births. Midwives from Trowbridge and Paulton (Bristol) would be relocated to new midwifery units at Bath Royal United Hospital and Salisbury District Hospital. Swindon has a White Horse Birth Centre which is based at the Great Western Hospital.

 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, 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

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