'Changes have been made to maternity services' public meeting hears

PUBLISHED: 11:43 19 April 2010 | UPDATED: 01:08 16 June 2010

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CHANGES have been made to maternity services in Honiton, ahead of public consultation, and women fear the birthing unit at the town s community hospital will eventually close. Those were the sentiments expressed at a public meeting last Friday.

CHANGES have been made to maternity services in Honiton, ahead of public consultation, and women fear the birthing unit at the town's community hospital will eventually close.

Those were the sentiments expressed at a public meeting last Friday.

Nobody from NHS Devon was there to respond to the claims. A statement, read on behalf of NHS Devon by Councillor Vernon Whitlock, who chaired the meeting, said there would "categorically" be no closure of services.

Dr John Ackroyd, a retired GP from Ottery St Mary, said: "Changes have been made. This is disconcerting. These changes were instigated by the management.

"I have no criticism of the midwives. They are being asked to work in a different way."

Dr Ackroyd explained NHS Devon had wanted to put maternity services out to contract for the past three or four years.

"The only realistic set of people to take over this service was the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E). They have been in discussions since January 2009."

Dr Ackroyd said midwives were not notified until February this year and without any consultation.

He said "almost immediately" staffing hours at Honiton Community Hospital's birthing unit were restricted to 8am to 8pm and transfers from the RD&E to the maternity unit in Honiton were stopped.

NHS Devon has said a "robust" midwife will be sent to the hospital out-of-hours, if a woman in labour turns up overnight.

"They initially said patients would be discharged within two hours, but subsequently modified that to the same day," Dr Ackroyd told the meeting.

"The midwife cover in East Devon is exactly the same now as it was last year, except one part-time midwife is on maternity leave and the vacancy has not been filled."

Campaigners from Okehampton, where there are fears changes could be made to post-natal care, attended the meeting to "to learn from you and to support you".

Parents told the meeting that they had "a right to 24-hour post-natal care", that maternity services in Honiton should be used as a flagship and not downgraded to national standards, and that labour plans are being disrupted.

Women expressed concerns about establishing breast feeding and how they would cope with any post-natal problems if they were at home and not in hospital.

More to follow on this story: revisit this website later shortly.


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