Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust has decided to lose Ludlow Maternity Unit for two weeks. Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East says:
I have completely lost track of how often we have heard that Ludlow Maternity Unit is to close temporarily. A few days later, it reopens. And not long after that, the health trust, SaTH, announces the maternity unit is to close yet again. Maternity services in rural Shropshire look like they are stuck in a Groundhog Day.
We are told by SaTH that women are choosing to give birth at the consultant-led maternity units in Telford and Shrewsbury. This is no more than a Hobson’s Choice. All expectant mothers need confidence in maternity services. They want to give birth in a calm and familiar environment.
Ludlow and the other rural maternity units are closer to where many expectant mothers live. The units have long provided calmness and familiarity. They are the first choice for many mothers.
But nervous mothers have little choice but to opt to go to Shrewsbury or to Telford, or even out of county to Hereford. If they choose Ludlow, the chances are it will be closed at no notice due to yet another staff shortage or other excuse.
I am very angry that SaTH has in the past few days rebutted rural health campaigners claims that it ultimately plans to close maternity units. We are not scaremongering. We are asking tough questions. It is SaTH that is scaring mothers into giving birth a long way from their homes. It is SaTH that is saying there is no risk for women in labour travelling on difficult narrow roads at short notice. But many expectant mothers find that scary. As a nurse, I find that scary.
The timing of labour and giving birth is unpredictable. But one thing at least is predictable here in south west Shropshire. Once labour starts, it will be pot luck whether Ludlow Maternity Unit will be open.
I fear it will not be many weeks before SaTH announces that so few babies are being born in Ludlow and other rural maternity units, they must close permanently. Then the health trust will have got the result it clearly wants. Shutting down all Shropshire’s rural maternity units.