By Carl Gavaghan Whitby Gazette
MATERNITY services in Whitby could be saved after health secretary Alan Johnson ordered the decision of the NHS trust to close the unit to be reviewed.
This move has been described as a giant step forward in the fight to allow Whitby mothers to give birth in their local hospital.
Mr Johnson has decided the evidence submitted to him by North Yorkshire County Council's scrutiny health committee appealing against Scarborough NHS Trust's decision to end home from home births in Whitby, Malton and Bridlington needs further consideration.
Coun John Blackie, chairman of the committee and one of the fiercest critics of the decision, said this was the best possible news.
He told the Whitby Gazette: "I have been told that Alan Johnson has instructed the Independent Reconsideration Panel, which looks at these decisions, to carry out a detailed review of the trust's decision.
"If he thought there was nothing to look at he would have turned round and dismissed it out of hand so this is a very good sign. He obviously feels there is something to consider.
"Members of the panel are in Whitby today (yesterday) to start the review and I'm hopeful that we will have the decision by July; that means nothing can close in that time and if the panel sides with us then the three maternity units will remain open.
"I have heard from people at t
he Department of Health that they thought our 24-page document requesting the decision be overturned contained some of the best arguments they have ever seen.
"This is wonderful news for all those people who voted with their feet in Whitby and showed that they wanted their maternity unit to remain open.
"This really is a giant step in the right direction."
The NHS trust took the decision to close midwife-led home-from-home maternity units at Whitby Hospital in July last year, along with those at Bridlington and Malton.
There was an outcry in Whitby, which saw hundreds of people turn up for a public meeting at Whitby Pavilion to make their feelings known to trust chief executive Iain McInnes.
You can see some of our previous stories about the proposed closure of the maternity unit
Whitby Gazette Tuesday newspaper.
Last Updated: 15 April 2008 2:20 PM