£1m baby unit's part-time opening

Published Date: 31 January 2010 Yorkshire Post
By Mark Branagan

A health trust's much-delayed £1m midwifery unit will open today – but only to mothers who go into labour between Monday and Wednesday, it has been revealed.

The new Midwifery-Led Unit (MLU) at Scarborough Hospital will welcome its first expectant mothers from today. But then it will shut its doors again from Thursday to Sunday because of staffing shortages.

Mothers giving birth on Sunday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays face going onto the main labour ward until the unit is able to open seven days a week, which is not expected to be until April 1.

Campaigner Mick Pilling, chairman of Save Bridlington Hospital Action Group, said: "I thought it was a bit early for April Fool's Day but it would appear the trust is not joking.

"The unit was supposed to open last year. It is just one crisis after another and it is the patients which are suffering. After all the delay, the least we expected was that it would be fully open, not operating on a three-day week.

"Again the patient is suffering – although the patient is the one who has paid through the nose through income tax. It is insulting to people having babies.

"If you have baby at the start of the week you get all the luxuries. If you get one back end of the week you'll take what you're given."

Scarborough Tory MP Robert Goodwill said: "I think this is the latest in a long line of disappointing outcomes at Scarborough Hospital.

"I have great sympathy for the staff struggling to provide services despite lack of resources which has resulted in this particularly staffing issue.

"It makes you wonder where the value for money is in investing in this unit only not to have it open when it's needed. It seems a false economy."

Vale of York Tory MP Anne McIntosh said: "It is something I certainly will be keeping a very close eye on. Obviously, it is nice to have a brand new unit, but people would prefer it open all the hours it can."

The new purpose designed unit is supervised by midwives, offering natural, home-style births to low risk mothers and babies from across Scarborough, Whitby, Bridlington and Malton.

Two of the unit's three spacious rooms are equipped with a birthing pool, while all have en-suite facilities. Each room also includes natural birthing equipment.

The acting head of midwifery, Freya Oliver, said: "We are delighted that the MLU is ready for business. Unfortunately, we had to postpone the original opening date due to recruiting difficulties.

"We are still waiting for a number of midwives to take up their post which is why the unit is only open on a part time basis to start with although our target date to have it fully operational is April.

"However, we would always have had a part time opening even if fully staffed, to allow time for addressing any problems.

"When the unit is not open women will be given the opportunity to have their baby on the main labour ward or at home with midwife support."

The opening of the unit is part of a maternity review which will see midwifery-led deliveries transferred to Scarborough from Bridlington, Whitby and Malton hospitals.

Officials underlined that in all three of the smaller towns Community Midwifery Teams will still continue to offer women support locally.

A trust spokesman added: "The delay in opening the unit has been due to difficulties in recruiting qualified midwives. This is a national problem which all Trusts have been facing."