JR took north Oxfordshire midwives to cope with pressure

Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143901009
Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143901009

Oxford hospital bosses admitted they had to take midwives from north Oxfordshire to cope with pressure on the maternity unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

The hospital’s head of midwifery said the Oxford unit needed to call on midwives to cope with unusually high demand last weekend.

Campaign group Keep the Horton General said this proves its predictions the JR would not be able to cope with numbers of deliveries if consultant-led maternity was removed from Banbury.

Chairman Keith Strangwood said reports that Chipping Norton’s duty midwife and seven community midwives from Oxfordshire were called upon to work at the Oxford birth unit were alarming.

“This is extremely worrying if it becomes a common occurrence because of staff shortages,” he said.

“After removal of our full service we have only one midwife and a care assistant at any time at the Horton.

“If a multiple births situation happens at the Horton the community midwife is brought in.

“If all are sent to Oxford, that travel time we have warned about so often, can mean the difference between life and death.”

Rosalie Wright, Interim Head of Midwifery at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:“On the weekend in question, we experienced an unusually high level of demand on our maternity unit at the JR, with an exceptionally high number of women in labour.

“In order to cope with this level of demand, we followed our normal escalation policy by drafting in our hospital on-call and then our community on-call midwives.

“This meant that although we continued to offer a service at our Horton MLU, we were unable to offer this at our other Midwifery Led Units during these few hours. Fortunately, no woman required this service during the period in question.

“Maternity is by nature a responsive service with peaks in demand and therefore requires a flexible approach to staffing.”

Oxford University Hospitals had previously admitted that on a day shortly before Christmas the Horton’s midwife was called to help out at the JR.

At that time they said no pregnant woman had needed birth support and no one was inconvenienced.

The trust described it as an ‘isolated incident’ and the only occasion since the removal of the full maternity service in October 2016.

Mr Strangwood said: “It has happened again not with just one midwife but several.

“Clearly this is going to be a common occurrence, posing real danger to Banbury’s expectant mothers as we have predicted all along.”

He added: “With the population growing and the JR finding it impossible to recruit staff, added to winter absences, it is impossible for them to promise that this is not going to be repeated again and again.

“It proves the Banbury obstetric unit was always needed and still is. It should be reinstated before anything dreadful happens.”