Campaigners reunite to launch new battle

Families united at Darley Birth Centre this week – to call on health bosses to save the unit from closure.

Crowds turned out to support the maternity unit, in Darley Dale, after NHS chiefs revealed they will be carrying out a review into its future in an attempt to save money.

The Mercury has launched a Don’t Ditch Darley campaign to try and safeguard the future of the centre and we are calling on our readers to get involved by signing our petition (below).

Alice Lockett, of Matlock Hospitals League of Friends and a former member of campaign group Maintain Our Maternity Services, said: “I’m hoping through Facebook we will be able to get as many people as possible involved in the consultation.

“I think the number of people that have commented on Facebook really shows there is still massive support for the centre and that women from all around the county who have used it.”

At a meeting last week NHS officials agreed to press ahead with the review.Consultation will take place in two stages and patients, members of the public, GPs and other interested parties will be asked for their views.

A decision on whether to close the birth centre will be made in November.

Alice said: “I can totally understand that the NHS has got to look at where it can make savings but it seems like the first thing it always does is go for the much loved frontline services.

“I’m going to write to MP Patrick McLoughlin to point out to him how valuable it is and ask him if he has seen the comments on our Facebook page. I’m sure he’d be interested to see how cared for it is and how valuable the service is.”

She added: “I just don’t see how if they close it they can make any savings. They are still going to have to provide a service for women at Chesterfield and they are not going to be able to do that without increasing their services – unless they reduce the service they provide.”

The NHS has revealed that individual births at Darley cost the between £1,100 and around £3,000 more than a normal birth at one of the major hospitals or at home.

They say extensive research had been undertaken and there is no evidence to show that giving birth in a birth centre is safer than a home birth, nor more clinically effective. They also claim there is no evidence to say that births at a stand alone birth centre have better outcomes than the birth centres in the major hospitals.

David Sharp, chief executive of the NHS Derby City and NHS Derbyshire County cluster told the Mercury this week that saving the centre from closure would come at the cost of other services.

He said: “There is a finite amount of money available and tough choices have got to be made. If we can’t make any savings this way we are going to have to go back and have a consultation about what other areas can save money.”

Mr Sharp said if the unit were closed antenatal/postnatal appointments and antenatal classes would continue to be provided locally.

He said birth numbers in the area were not expected to drop but services at Chesterfield Hospital were adequate to cope with any extra demand – and staff from Darley would be relocated.

A decision on whether or not to close the birth centres will be made in November.

The authority has also reported that most women who live in the Darley area choose not to use the birth centre. Despite being offered as an option to all women in the area, the number of births a year is only 100.

Campaigners have argued that NHS figures that highlight low numbers of women using the centres do not include mothers who gave birth elsewhere before receiving postnatal care at the centre.

Consultation, which will be in two stages, is expected to last until October, with a decision made by the board in November.

To pledge support for the Don’t Ditch Darley campaign comment online at www.matlockmercury.co.uk email us at news@matlockmercury.co.uk comment on our Facebook page or tweet your support to twitter.com/MatMerc.

There is also a We Love Darley Birth Centre page