After today’s decision, it’s fine to live in rural Shropshire unless you are pregnant

Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East and a practising nurse, responds to the decision today by SaTH to close the rural midwifery-led maternity units at Ludlow, Oswestry and Bridgnorth for up to 24 weeks.

“This is disgraceful. This is disgusting.

“If Ludlow and the other rural maternity units are closed for nearly six months, they will never reopen.

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Another suspension of services at Ludlow & Oswestry MLUs – we must fight

Yet again, “staff sickness” has closed Ludlow and Oswestry maternity units. The level of staff sickness in our rural maternity units is extraordinary. Almost week in, week out we see a closure due to “staff sickness”. This is not staff sickness. It is understaffing and underfunding. It is a strategy that is set to deprive rural areas from vital maternity services.

It looks like rural maternity units won’t last long. Why on earth would a mother book into units that could be closed at a minute’s notice? Mothers won’t go there because they don’t want uncertainly at the most important time in their lives. Then Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) will then declare them to be unnecessary. We must fight this.

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How do you maintain choice for mothers by closing maternity units?

Today, the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) issued a press release about the plan to convert midwifery-led maternity units (MLUs) in Ludlow, Oswestry and Bridgnorth to on-call services. This means that mums-to-be must ring to arrange for a midwife to come to unlock the maternity unit before care can be provided for the mother and child. This could possibly work if births came according to a prearranged schedule but that’s not the way that pregnancies run. SaTH says this will “maintain choice for mums-to-be”. I can’t see that being the case.

If you don’t use a health facility, it will be closed. The mums-to-be I have spoken to are clear that they need certainty. They fear they will call a midwife when in labour and none will be available outside Telford. They need a clear pathway at an uncertain time of life. This panic plan will not deliver that. What it will deliver a few months from now is the permanent closure of rural midwifery units.

The SaTH press release is reproduced in full below.

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General Election 2017: What the Ludlow candidates said about – the NHS

On Saturday night and throughout Sunday, NHS staff in London worked flat out in the aftermath of yet another awful terrorist attack. Their work is as admirable as it is professional. Yet moral in the NHS is pitifully low and resources are stretched to breaking point. In rural counties like Shropshire, it is proving near impossible to recruit staff while the uncertainty about reorganisation of the service under Future Fit and the Sustainability and Transformation Plan continues.

Before last weekend’s attack, Eric Smith on Radio Shropshire asked the Ludlow candidates for their views on the NHS during two live hustings – one in the studio and a second on Events Square. My notes below are from these debates. A third husting took place at St Laurence’s Church.

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