MP fears for future of area’s birthing centres

Caroiline Dinenage
Caroiline Dinenage
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GOSPORT MP Caroline Dinenage has warned temporary changes to maternity centres could be ‘closure by stealth’.

As of today, women will not be able to stay at the birthing centres in our area longer than they need to.

Instead, once they are fit and ready, they will have to go home – this could be within a few hours of birth.

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust says it is a temporary measure for August to deal with a higher number of births – most of which happen at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.

The trust says the changes will allow midwives, who until now may have had to staff birthing centres giving post-natal support, to be able to go where the births are happening.

But Ms Dinenage says this spells disasters for mums and centres – including the Gosport Blake Maternity Centre, Portsmouth Maternity Centre at St Mary’s Hospital, and the Grange Maternity Centre in Petersfield.

She said: ‘I worry this is a closure by stealth. They could turn around and say “we’ve managed without this for a while, let’s just carry on without it”. A reduction in the service always sends alarms bells ringing. Post-natal stays are so important too. Some women need that extra support in the first few days and, studies show women who are let out too soon are at more risk of post-natal depression. This is a short-sighted cutback and women will stop using the centres.’

The hospital trust has defended its decision, which it says will affect between five and 10 women this month. Gill Walton, head of midwifery, said: ‘We need to ensure our service is as flexible as possible so women get their choice of place of birth while receiving safe, one-to-one care in labour.

‘Because we’re expecting to be busy this month, we want to ensure midwives are free to go where women are giving birth. This isn’t about closing centres – in fact we want to encourage women to give birth at the centres.’

The centres will be staffed during the day but not overnight, unless a woman calls the maternity co-ordinator to say she is going into labour in which case a midwife will meet her at the centre. If a woman gives birth at night they can stay until the morning. A healthcare support worker will stay at the centre with them.

Post-natal clinics will continue at the centres, as will post-natal home visits.