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A decision is likely to be made on January 16 for Trowbridge Birthing Centre

January 5, 2020 6:27 PM
By John Baker in Wiltshire Times

A highly controversial decision about the closure of Trowbridge Hospital's birthing centre is expected to be made at a meeting later this month.

People will get their last chance to voice their views at a public meeting from 10am-12 noon on Thursday, January 16 at the Lackham Campus of Wiltshire College and University Centre.

Papers will be made publicly available from Thursday, January 9 on the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group website: www.wiltshireccg.nhs.uk.

If the proposal gets the go-ahead at the meeting, Trowbridge's midwifery unit will only provide pre-natal and post-natal services, forcing expectant mothers to travel further afield to give birth.

As well as stopping births at Trowbridge, the proposal - made by hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups from Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES), Swindon and Wiltshire - also includes the closure of Paulton's (Bristol) birthing unit.

The midwifery units in Chippenham and Frome will remain open for births.

A decision on the proposal was due by the end of March last year but was delayed due to the number of responses to the consultation, which ran from November 2018 until February 2019.

The proposal has attracted strong criticism from locals, with some branding the plan to close what they described as the 'largest and most popular free-standing birthing unit in west Wiltshire' as a 'backward step'.

Midwives from Trowbridge and Paulton would be relocated to new midwifery units at Bath's Royal United Hospital and to Salisbury District Hospital.

There would be no change to the White Horse Birth Centre at Swindon's Great Western Hospital.

The changes to maternity services across BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire have been proposed in response to figures that revealed less mothers are choosing to give birth in the four freestanding midwifery units.

The proposal to close Trowbridge's birthing unit, whilst keeping Chippenham's open, has been strongly condemned.

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group's strategic outline case for Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge in 2018, documented that in 2015/16 more births took place at Trowbridge birthing unit (330) than Chippenham birthing unit (220).

Predicted figures for 2025/26 showed that the popularity of the Trowbridge unit would continue to rise, with 352 births in Trowbridge compared to 235 in Chippenham.

A spokesperson from the 'Transforming Maternity Services Together' consultation said, "Thank you to everyone who took part in our consultation and shared their views with us. There were many suggestions for how we can improve services and these will help inform our future plans.

"Since we started this process in 2017, more than 4,500 mums, families, staff and partners in the community have shared their views and ideas about how to deliver a safe and positive birth and maternity experience for families in BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire, as well as prepare them to approach parenting with confidence.

"Our proposals have been rigorously examined by the South West Clinical Senate and an independent expert panel which included a GP, an obstetrician, representatives of mums and dads, a midwife and a quality improvement lead.

"We have also consulted with a joint BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee and worked through the NHS England assurance process.

"A final set of recommendations will be submitted to a joint meeting of the BaNES, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group's governing body on Thursday, 16th January 2020 where a decision will be made.

"This meeting will be in public and will take place at the Lackham Campus, Wiltshire College from 10am - 12 noon.

"More information will be available on the CCG websites shortly and papers will be published on the sites in advance of the meeting on 9th January. If you have any queries, please email us at maternity.transformationBSW@nhs.net." Trowbridge Birthing Centre ()