New mums need rest, NHS told

In-patient support is valued and needed, public meeting in Honiton hears.

THE future shape of maternity services offered at Honiton Community Hospital has “caught the public’s concern” more than any other issue in the town over the past 30 years, with the exception of Tesco’s dashed plan for a new Extra store.

That is what Councillor Vernon Whitlock, Honiton’s deputy mayor, told a public meeting today (Saturday).

He said concern was “immense” and that the town council had called the meeting, jointly chaired by NHS Devon, “because the information we had was that the maternity unit was only going to be open in the day”.

“Is retaining a 24-hour in-patient service an option?” asked.

Dr Virginia Pearson, the director of public health in Devon, replied: “Anything is possible, but we can’t leave it the way it has been.”

Councillor Whitlock stressed how much people value the service and described it as “exemplary” and “first class”.

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He added: “The unfortunate thing is, it has taken two months to get you folks out here.”

He said he had heard some harrowing stories from mothers in the meantime.

Mums told health chiefs they do not consider childbirth to be “normal” and that, sometimes, women can be traumatised by it.

Mothers who have used the birthing centre at Honiton recently have noticed a significant change, brought about by staff shortages. They said there was no additional support in the community to help them.

Councillor Whitlock referred to the closure of The Bungalow in Honiton without services being put in place in the community for dementia sufferers.

Karen Foster, a mother-of-five, told NHS Devon: “If something is not broken, why fix it? You are sugar coating what they want to do to our unit.”

Mrs Foster stressed women need rest after giving birth and should not be sent home too soon.

Claire Mountjoy said she was concerned that the tense used by NHS Devon staff meant the decision to close the unit to in-patients needing rest had already been made.

“I don’t think you are listening,” she said.

Natasha Hardiman said: “If I didn’t come back to Honiton Hospital after giving birth, I think I would have ended up with post-natal depression.

“We want what we have always had.”