Weston Mercury: MP looks for ways to keep Weston-super-Mare’s maternity ward open

This article was originally published in the Weston Mercury 09/11/2017

Weston’s maternity unit is ‘trapped in a self-fulfilling downward spiral’ because pregnant women do not believe it can offer safe emergency care, according to the town’s MP.

John Penrose has asked whether more sophisticated procedures could be offered at Weston General Hospital if complications ensue, in an effort to increase the birth rate at the hospital.

On average, only three babies a week are born at the hospital and the unit’s future is under scrutiny. North Somerset CCG’s long-term Healthy Weston vision describes the unit as ‘unsustainable’ in its current form.

Weston Area Health NHS Trust bosses say the midwife-led unit is safe, but believe many women unnecessarily choose to go to Bristol because it is viewed as a safer option.

And Mr Penrose believes if some of the more specialised birthing procedures were available in Weston, then it will be more readily used.

In his letter to Julia Ross, the chief officer of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCGs, he said: “Weston isn’t equipped to cope with these types of cases, so most women opt to give birth in Bristol in case something unexpected happens.

“This means Weston’s maternity unit doesn’t handle enough births to justify the necessary investments in either staff or equipment to deal with more complex cases.”

He said with growing populations in Bristol and North Somerset it made more sense to change maternity services.

Mr Penrose added: “Have we considered whether it would be more efficient to add capacity for Weston to handle at least some of the more common complications, so more families want to use it?

“Or to start a third fully-equipped birth centre in Weston, or even to move one of the two existing centres from Bristol to Weston entirely instead?”

If Weston’s maternity unit shuts, mothers-to-be would face heading to North Bristol or South Gloucestershire and Mr Penrose asked Ms Ross if she felt that was fair.

He has collected information from Weston parents about why they chose Bristol’s hospitals and believes it shows the concerns over complications are real.

He said: “They show that Weston’s maternity unit is trapped in a self-fulfilling downward spiral.”

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