CHIPPING Norton’s maternity unit must reopen as soon as possible to serve mothers who are having to travel long distances to give birth, a councillor has said.
Hilary Biles, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for growth and infrastructure, has made the plea for services to be resumed at Chipping Norton Hospital’s Cotswold Maternity Unit which is operated by Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Trust.
Births were suspended at the unit in October when a review was ordered into all aspects of the unit’s working practices after concerns were raised by staff and patients.
Issues prompting the review included the number of mothers transferred to Oxford’s John Radcliffe (JR) Hospital after beginning their labour at Chipping Norton, and a sharp decline in the number of births at the Cotswold unit.
Mrs Biles campaigned tirelessly to save hospital services in Chipping Norton when the War Memorial Hospital in Spring Lane closed three years ago and strongly supports the maternity unit and first aid unit at the new London Road hospital. She said: “I want to see the unit reopened as soon as is practical. It’s an essential part of the hospital.
“It doesn’t just serve Chipping Norton, it serves all the villages around it. It’s a wonderful unit and especially with weather like this it’s so important that we keep facilities in rural areas.”
Mrs Biles also raised questions about the review being conducted internally by the Trust.
“I am happy that a review is being conducted but I’m hoping it will be a substantial review,” she said.
“I would have preferred it to be an independent enquiry. I just feel it’s very difficult for somebody to do a review on their colleagues.” When the unit does reopen, Mrs Biles is calling for it to be staffed by midwives 24 hours a day.
The unit was previously open 24 hours but was only staffed by midwives on call for the duration of a mother’s labour. Mrs Biles feels some mothers may have been leaving hospital too soon after giving birth.
Jane Herve, head of midwifery for the OUH NHS Trust, confirmed the evidence collection part of the review is expected to conclude by the end of January and a report will then be written but she said it was not possible to say when the unit is likely to reopen.
She confirmed the review is being undertaken by the Trust but said an independent patient body, the Maternity Services Liaison Committee, is also being consulted. Ms Herve said midwife-led units care for women with low risk pregnancies and births and therefore women would not expect to be kept in for long periods of time.