New fears over review of birth centre services

Caroiline Dinenage
Caroiline Dinenage
Harry Sotnick House

Plans in place to help failing Portsmouth care homes

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FEARS over the future of maternity centres have resurfaced after a planned review of postnatal care.

Mums-to-be were told last month they could not stay at birth units longer than they needed to while midwives coped with a baby boom at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.

At the time health officials said it was a temporary measure.

But with the busy month now over, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust says it could put a permanent stop to postnatal stays.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage fears it will put people off using the units and lead to closures.

But the hospital trust insists it has no plans to shut them.

Mrs Dinenage said: ‘It worries me because these centres are so important and valuable, particularly to places like Gosport where you’re a long way from QA.

‘The less people use them the less likely they are to stay open. I stayed at a maternity centre after I had my first child and it was incredibly valuable to me as it gave me an opportunity to recover from childbirth.

‘It let me feel comfortable with my new baby because my husband is in the military. We have a lot of people in that situation who have partners in the armed forces and it’s important for new mums to have that support.’

Affected centres include Gosport’s Blake Centre, the Portsmouth Maternity Centre at St Mary’s Hospital and the Grange Maternity Centre in Petersfield.

Head of midwifery, Gill Walton, said she wanted people to carry on using the centres.

She said: ‘The only thing we stopped is for well mothers and babies to have a convalescence. In the past, a few women have had the opportunity to stay for a few days. But lots of women want to go home as soon as they have had their baby. We’re not going to turf people out; we assess each woman individually. We won’t send someone home to nobody.’

The hospital trust is also ramping up its efforts to provide support workers for new mums when they get home. This means midwives who would have previously given postnatal support on things like breast-feeding are free to help women who are giving birth instead.

Ms Walton added: ‘It means we can be more flexible with the centres and keep them open.

‘We’re increasing support for people once they go home. In the last month it did work and we were much more flexible. We’re going to look at what worked and what hasn’t worked. Our strategy is to keep the centres open.’