The Horton’s midwife-led maternity unit was closed to deliveries and home births suspended on Wednesday, August 8, when the hospital trust requisitioned midwives to the busy JR unit in Oxford.
Reports to the Banbury Guardian were that the Horton’s duty midwife and five community midwives were called in overnight, meaning all delivery options in north Oxfordshire were closed.
A manager was also called in at 3.30am because the pressure at the JR delivery unit was so great.
While the Oxford University Hospitals Trust said no one was inconvenienced, the Keep the Horton General Group (KTHG) - which has staged an intensive fight for a full maternity unit to be returned to Banbury’s hospital - said the staffing crisis was ‘showing the cracks’.
“Our information is that midwives from the Horton and community midwives were called into the Radcliffe due to staffing issues” said chairman Keith Strangwood.
“If they can’t staff Oxford it proves the Horton was always a safety net for the JR. The safety net is now gone. If there’s no midwife at the Horton it’s madness.
“What would have happened if a mother had presented at the Horton in the late stages of labour?
“We need that safety net back. It’s putting Banburyshire mothers at risk,” he said.
KTHG says requisitioning midwives to Oxford because of a shortage of staff there has happened ‘a few times’.
“We hear it’s happened a few times now overnight. It’s always been hush hush but it is expected to happen loads now over the summer,” said Mr Strangwood.
“Leave is at its highest in the school holidays. This isn’t anything new. It’s because they are dozens of midwives short of their establishment model, with a high long-term sick percentage due to stress, as far as we hear.
“The trust acknowledged weeks ago that management would be expected to work in clinical areas if there was a particularly busy time which shows how serious the situation is there. It cannot carry on like this.”
Rosalie Wright, Director of Midwifery at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Maternity services by their nature are a responsive service, and our staffing model reflects that – our midwives go where women need them to be.
“On Wednesday there was a need for additional midwives at the John Radcliffe Hospital as that is where women had chosen to give birth. In this situation we look to our other on call midwives to support the service where they are needed.
“We therefore closed the midwifery-led unit at the Horton General Hospital for a short period.
She added: “This decision was not taken lightly. It was a clinical decision deemed necessary to maintain safe, high quality care for all women.
“During the temporary closure of the Horton General midwifery-led unit for this short period of time, no pregnant woman required the support of its services and staff. Therefore no one was inconvenienced.”