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Call for clarity over Shropshire's rural maternity units

Oswestry | News | Published:

Campaigners have demanded that Shropshire health bosses give a clear decision over the future of rural maternity units.

Gill George, the chair of Shropshire Defend our NHS has written a letter to county bosses appealing for units like Ludlow, Bridgnorth and Oswestry to be kept open.

In the letter to Simon Wright, the chief executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust and Simon Freeman the acting accountable officer for Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Ms George urges them to clarify the future of the units.

More than 1,100 people marched through Ludlow amid fears the town could lose its maternity unit.

Fears have been raised because no details have been announced about how rural maternity services such as those at Ludlow, Bridgnorth and Oswestry are to be funded beyond April 2017 when the current funding contract ends.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Ludlow midwife-led unit, insists there are no plans to close it permanently.

However the financial recovery plan for the trust lists one of the possible changes as converting three midwife led units to birthing centres.

These would be open during the day but closed overnight with a midwife on call to open the unit if a woman was in labour.

Ms George says a new contract is to be signed by December 23 but has called for "certainty" over whether midwife-led units will be included in the contract.

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She said: "We are a fortnight away from the date for contracts to be finalised – and service users have no idea if rural midwife-led units are to continue.

"The fears for the units are not without foundation. In April 2016, SaTH published plans to achieve cost savings of £1.5 million a year on rural maternity services.

"Campaigners have put considerable effort into trying to clarify the plans. It appears that the £1.5m is the 'excess cost' of the services.

"The SaTH view has been that Shropshire CCG should pay this amount and that discussions have taken place with the CCG around this; the CCG view – across several changes of senior staff – has been that no such discussions have taken place but the money is unlikely to be available anyway."

Early this year the Ludlow unit was temporarily closed because of concerns over the ageing building it was based in. It was reopened in a more modern part of the hospital.

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