Following the sudden decision last week by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH) Board to suspend maternity services at Bridgnorth and Ludlow Midwife Ludlow Units for a period of three to six months, South Shropshire MP Philip Dunne met the Chief Executive and Head of Midwifery last Friday morning in Ludlow to call for a return of services as soon as possible.
Simon Wright, Chief Executive of SaTH, said the Trust faced a combination of short‐term and long‐term sickness in recent months, and did not use agency staff for staff quality issues, so had decided temporarily to use midwives from Midwife Led Units to supplement staff at Consultant Led Units.
Mr Wright explained that increasing birth numbers at the Consultant Led Unit at Telford had at times meant 33% of maternity staff had been covering Midwife Led Units, despite only 13% of local births taking place there. However Mr Wright indicated there was absolutely no intention for these closures to become permanent, and confirmed SaTH’s commitment to providing a ‘Hub and Spoke’ model for midwifery, which promotes local rural services remaining available in the county.
Mr Dunne said: “Like many others, I was surprised to learn of SaTH’s decision to close our Midwife Led Units at Ludlow and Bridgnorth for a period of between 3 and 6 months. So I arranged an urgent meeting with Simon Wright, Chief Executive and Sarah Jamieson Head of Midwifery of SaTH, in Ludlow to press for resumption of services in both Bridgnorth and Ludlow as soon as possible.
Mr Wright confirmed these closures are absolutely temporary in nature, and would help alleviate problems with long and short term staff sickness in the maternity team at the Consultant Led Unit in Telford. This is a move purely to safeguard patient safety.
I made clear that any such closures must also necessitate a commitment to resolving staffing issues, by recruiting more midwives as soon as possible. Mr Wright confirmed the Trust is pressing ahead with recruiting more midwives immediately.
Antenatal sessions will continue in both Bridgnorth and Ludlow, and expectant mothers with due dates during the MLU closures will plan their deliveries with their Midwife as many other mothers from South Shropshire who are planning to have their babies in the Women & Children's unit at the PRH already so.
The SaTH Board will be reviewing this decision after three months, so I will continue to press SaTH to ensure sufficient maternity staff are in place to be able to resume local maternity services in Bridgnorth and Ludlow as soon as possible.”
Mr Wright has subsequently written to the Chief Executive of Shropshire CCG with the following explanation: “The Trust has faced a combination of short‐term and long‐term sickness in recent months within our Maternity Service. The proposals were put forward on safety grounds to ensure safe staffing levels. This is not about the competence of our staff but our ability to ensure safe numbers of staff. The proposals do not pre-empt the outcome of the Midwife‐Led Unit review that our clinical commissioners are carrying out. In the meantime, the Trust will also continue its efforts to recruit more Midwives.”
SaTH have confirmed all community antenatal and postnatal care will continue to be provided either within the unit during the day or in the community, however, for the period of temporary closures women will not be able to give birth in these units or be transferred to them for their postnatal care.
SaTH will be working with service users and stakeholders to ensure they are fully engaged in the process to shape the service. Mr Dunne is urging those who have used or are considering using the MLUs to take advantage of the Trust's request for feedback to the Head of Midwifery Sarah Jamieson, who can be contacted her via her PA Nick Robinson on firstname.lastname@example.org.