Future of Honiton maternity services to be decided

Campaigners hope overnight hospital stays will be reinstated.

Maternity campaigners are keeping their fingers crossed that NHS bosses have listened to both families and county councillors as the fate of future services at Honiton Community Hospital is about to be decided.

NHS Devon’s board of directors will make a decision next Wednesday (27 October) on whether to reinstate the controversial overnight stays element of a reorganisation of maternity services in East and Mid Devon.

Last month, Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Services Scrutiny Committee voted 17 to one to reinstate overnight stays and restore transfers to Honiton from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital for new mums.

Overnight stays at Honiton maternity unit ceased suddenly in February. Health bosses blamed a staff shortage.

Two public meetings in Honiton and demonstrations failed to get the overnight service reinstated.

Ottery St Mary Town Councillor for West Hill and maternity campaigner, Claire Wright, said: “It would mean so much to so many families for the NHS to listen to them and allow mums to stay longer than a few hours after giving birth.”

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An online survey conducted over the summer of 39 women, who gave birth since the changes took plaace – thought to be around half of East Devon women giving birth in that timeframe - revealed that around two thirds of new mums were exhausted when they were discharged from Honiton maternity unit.

Those women then struggled to manage when they returned home, according to campaigners.

The survey also revealed that the new telephone helpline for breast-feeding advice was impractical as women found it very hard to manage holding the telephone, the baby and at the same time, position the breast.

Thousands of people across East and Mid Devon have joined internet campaign groups and signed petitions to retain the service.

Dr John Ackroyd, a retired Ottery St Mary GP, will address NHS Devon’s Board on Wednesday, on behalf of the Honiton Maternity Matters group. He will be joined by a group of campaigners who will observe the meeting.

The NHS Devon Board meeting takes place on Wednesday 27 October at 10am at West Devon Borough Council offices, Tavistock (PL19 0BZ)