Horton maternity downgrade discussed on TV as mum shares birth ordeal

Alice and Nick Watkins with baby William NNL-180828-154745009
Alice and Nick Watkins with baby William NNL-180828-154745009

A Banburyshire mum has described her birth ordeal and battle with sepsis miles from home because of the Horton’s downgrading.

Alice Watkins told BBC TV’s Victoria Derbyshire Show this week how she was taken to Warwick for an emergency caesarean and taken back a week later when she contracted sepsis.

The mum from the Banbury area appeared on Tuesday’s show with Keith Strangwood, chair of the Keep the Horton General, in a programme examining changes in maternity services.

The programme looked at the effect of temporary closures of maternity units due to staff shortages, while Mrs Watkins outlined how the recent downgrade at the Horton saw her go to Warwick – twice – as a result.

“Our local hospital, the Horton, has been downgraded to a midwife-only unit,” she said.

“It’s my first baby so my husband and I were concerned about being at a unit where there are no doctors so we had to choose between two hospitals that were nowhere near our home.

“It’s a good job we did as my son had to be delivered by emergency caesarean.

“We had to choose between Oxford, which is very difficult to get to, or Warwick which is in a different county.

“After I got home I became very unwell and the Horton diagnosed sepsis. But because the maternity unit had been downgraded I couldn’t get the treatment I needed there.

“So I had to be transferred in an ambulance to (Warwick) to receive the treatment I needed to save my life – with a six-day-old baby in tow.

“The treatment we received at Warwick was excellent but travelling that far was scary.”

Mr Strangwood said: “We have documented cases of women giving birth in a car, a grandmother delivering her grandchild on the side of the road and a woman giving birth in a supermarket car park.

“I have personal involvement in a case where a baby now has life-changing disabilities which is going to cost the NHS millions and this whole (downgrade) was about £2.2m the Clinical Commissioning Group wanted to save.”

On the show Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said the statistics – 46 per cent of maternity units temporarily closed to patients, on 282 occasions – were ‘atrocious’.

“This is the result of years of cuts and financial squeezing in the NHS. We haven’t got enough midwives; we’ve seen cuts to the numbers of beds in the NHS,” he said.

Mr Ashworth said if Labour won the next election they would reinstate the student bursary to encourage more midwife training.

The party would also address a shortage of 40,000 nurses, give the NHS more funding, end privatisation and bring the NHS back together from its current fragmented state.

Retired midwife Peggy Woodward told the programme she thought the figures were only ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Ms Derbyshire read out a Government statement saying: “The government have announced a 25 per cent increase in midwife training.

“Temporary closures of NHS maternity units are well-rehearsed safety measures trusts use to safely manage peaks in admissions because they are unable to plan the exact time and place of birth and there are occasions when they cannot accept more women into their care.”

Oxford University Hospitals said they had not issued a comment as they were not asked for one until the end of the programme.