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Trowbridge birthing unit to be axed? Decision to be made this month

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ADECISION about the closure of Trowbridge Hospital’s birthing unit is expected to be made this month.

If the proposal gets the go-ahead, Trowbridge’s midwifery unit will only provide pre- and post-natal services, forcing expectant Melksham mothers to travel further afield to give birth.

A decision on the proposal was due by the end of March last year, but was delayed due to the number of responses to the consultation, which ran from November 2018 until February.

The proposal attracted strong criticism from local residents, with some branding the plan to close what they described as the ‘largest and most popular free-standing birthing unit in north-west Wiltshire’ as a ‘backward step’.

As well as stopping births at Trowbridge, the proposal – made by hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups from Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES), Swindon and Wiltshire – also includes the closure of Paulton’s (Bristol) birthing unit. 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. There would be no change to Swindon’s White Horse Birth Centre which is based at the Great Western Hospital.

The changes to maternity services across BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire have been proposed in response to figures that revealed less mothers are choosing to give birth in the four freestanding midwifery units.

However, the proposal to close Trowbridge’s birthing unit, whilst keeping Chippenham’s open, was called into question as Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s strategic outline case for Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge in 2018, documented that in 2015/16 more births took place at Trowbridge birthing unit (330) than Chippenham birthing unit (220). And predicted figures for 2025/26 showed that the popularity of the Trowbridge unit would continue to rise, with 352 births in Trowbridge compared to 235 in Chippenham.

The meeting, where a decision will be made, is open to the public and will take place on Thursday 16th January at the Roper Room at Dorothy House Hospice Care – Winsley, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 2LE, from 10am.

Papers will be made publically available from Thursday 9th January on the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group website: www.wiltshireccg.nhs.uk

A spokesperson from the ‘Transforming Maternity Services Together’ consultation said, “Thank you to everyone who took part in our consultation and shared their views with us. There were many suggestions for how we can improve services and these will help inform our future plans.

“Since we started this process in 2017, more than 4,500 mums, families, staff and partners in the community have shared their views and ideas about how to deliver a safe and positive birth and maternity experience for families in  BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire, as well as prepare them to approach parenting with confidence.

“Our proposals have been rigorously examined by the South West Clinical Senate and an independent expert panel which included a GP, an obstetrician, representatives of mums and dads, a midwife and a quality improvement lead. We have also consulted with a joint BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee and worked through the NHS England assurance process.

“A final set of recommendations will be submitted to a joint meeting of the BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body on Thursday 16th January 2020 where a decision will be made. 

“This meeting will be in public and will take place at the Roper Room at Dorothy House Hospice Care – Winsley, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 2LE, from 10am – 12 noon. More information will be available on the CCG websites shortly and papers will be published on the sites in advance of the meeting on 9th January. If you have any queries, please email us at maternity.transformationBSW@nhs.net.”

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