BBC Radio Shropshire has just reported the following.

“The trust which runs Shropshire’s main hospitals is proposing to shut its midwife-led maternity units around the county and replace them with a system of on-call midwives who will come out if needed. The Shrewsbury and Hospital NHS Trust insists it is not pre-empting the outcome of a review into the future of the services. But it says wants to avoid the recent situation where the units have been closed at short-notice because of sickness.”

I fear this is the end for the three rural maternity units in Ludlow, Bridgnorth and Oswestry.

My very fast reading of the paperwork suggests that the midwifery-led maternity units will be an on-call service, 24 hours a day (possibly) and 7 days a week (possibly).

Papers for tomorrow’s CCG meeting state on page 61, paragraph 2.5:

Members of the Board may have seen that SaTH have moved to introduce an, ‘adapted midwifery model of staffing to enable, as the Trust have described, ‘the midwives attending MLU births as an on-call model in staffing demand, not staffing the MLU buildings, to enable the service to be maintained in a planned and systematic way and also provide prospective escalation cover for the obstetric unit.’ SaTH have confirmed that that this reflects a growing usage of the Consultant Led Unit and is therefore a response to this rather than a predetermination of the result of the Midwifery Led Unit Review.

What this means is that expectant mothers in Ludlow going in to labour will need to predict their birth and hope it doesn’t happen too quickly, so that a midwife can get to Ludlow and unlock the doors. Most mothers will not want this insecurity and will book into Telford or Hereford. That means that it is inevitable that Ludlow Maternity Unit will close.

This is a predetermination of closure, whatever SaTH says. In the market model that the government imposes on the NHS, if you take away the customers, you take away the finance. A unit then quickly becomes unviable and is closed.

Just days ago, Health Minister Philip Dunne told people in Ludlow that Ludlow Community Hospital is not threatened with closure. This looks pretty much like the first stage of a closure plan to me. This bleak news for Ludlow and rural health services. If we lose maternity services in Ludlow, I fear we will lose the community hospital altogether.

This happened on Philip Dunne’s watch but he wasn’t watching.

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