‘Unit could close for good,’ fears midwife

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A Scarborough midwife has spoken of her fear that the hospital’s £1m midwife-led unit is set to close its doors for good in October.

The midwife, who did not wish to be named, said that staff and patients are uncertain about what will happen and that morale is at an all-time low.

She told The Scarborough News: “It’s awful - we’re all so fed up. We’re trying to give the best care we can, but it’s a stressful time for all staff in maternity - not just in the midwife-led unit.”

In recent weeks, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Scarborough Hospital, has confirmed that the unit will close for 20 weeks from October 1 while the maternity operating theatres are refurbished.

Chief executive Patrick Crowley stressed that the closure was temporary, but added that he could not give any guarantees about the unit’s future.

An online petition started by Scarborough mum Joanne Garrity now has well over 1,000 signatures in support of the unit and pressure is mounting on bosses to give more reassurances in the long term.

Some staff have even said the first they had heard about the temporary closure was when they read about it in the paper.

The midwife who contacted us said: “We knew something was in the offing, but personally I don’t think they’ll ever open it again.

“The trust needs to save £1.8m in maternity. I think it spoke volumes when in Patrick Crowley’s statement he said they don’t have an MLU in York.”

She added: “It might make economic sense to close it, but it’s not in the best interests of the patient.

“I don’t believe you can run the NHS like a business, but at the end of the day it all comes down to money. They can dress it up any old way they like.

“But as far as we’re concerned, we’ve prepared ourselves for it never to open again.”

The midwife said that having women give birth in a relaxed, low-intervention unit like the one in Scarborough actually saves the Government money in the long run.

She explained: “We were told the Government wanted more birthing centres like these as it saves a fortune. Breastfeeding rates are better and there is less intervention. Women are able to relax and are less likely to ask for an epidural.”

However, she added that recently, the unit has been assigned fewer staff as more are required on the labour ward.

This has led to fewer women giving birth in the unit - not through choice, but through how many midwives are on duty.

Mr Crowley said he understood staff’s concerns about the MLU’s future and said he had spoken to them about the issue of making services safe and affordable.

He added: “The key issue here is the planned temporary closure of the MLU to enable the work to take place in the operating theatres. The unit will reopen when the work is completed.

“This temporary closure has fuelled concerns about the long term future of the unit and many other services and I fully appreciate the insecurity this creates for our staff and local community. However, this uncertainty is a direct consequence of the very difficult state of national public finances, and whether we like or not, difficult decisions and choices are going to have to be made about our priorities. There is no alternative.” He added that a public consultation would be held over any future service change.