Funding fears for Darley

Fears have been raised for the future of a Dales birth centre after health chiefs refused to rule out its closure.

Campaigners have launched an online promotion appeal in a bid to save Darley Birth Centre after it emerged only four women gave birth there in October, compared to 15 women in April.

The midwife-run centre, in Darley Dale, was temporarily closed in autumn 2006. Maintain Our Maternity Services – MOMS – collected 5,500 signatures in a petition against the closure and the centre was reopened a year later.

Now the local NHS organisation, which pays Chesterfield Royal Hospital to manage the centre, has admitted it will be part of a review to save money.

Matlock Hospitals League of Friends, which carried out fund-raising for the centre, has launched a dedicated page to the centre on Facebook.

Alice Lockett, of the League of Friends and a former member of MOMS said: “All of a sudden the open day, which was to attract more people to the centre, was cancelled and we started to think that is not good.

“I think there is still a real lack of knowledge about what it is, where it is and who can go there.”

She added: “So much money was spent on it when it reopened but we have always felt they didn’t really did a very good job of promoting it.

“I think people understand that we are in a difficult economic climate but while it is not being properly promoted I don’t think we can justify getting rid of it that is why we started our Facebook page.”

Pam Wildgoose, secretary of the League of Friends, said the centre had been fully renovated and kitted out with a birth pool and natural birth room.

She added: “We don’t want to see it closed.

“People who have been and used it think it is absolutely marvellous. It is like being at home, it is so quiet and peaceful it is not like being in a hospital. It is excellent.”

The centre, at Whitworth Hospital, is available to low risk mothers from all over Derbyshire and beyond. Over the years the League of Friends has helped fund an extension to the building as well as paying for the installation of the birth pool.

Readers have been logging on to Matlock Mercury’s Facebook page to give their views on the centre.

Natasha Mairs said: “I gave birth there two weeks ago to my third baby. Loved it there! Made me feel so relaxed.”

Elaine Pennell-Shawcross added: “I was booked to deliver at Darley, but I was rushed to Calow at last minute for delivery, then went back to Darley for the after care. Darley Maternity is the nicest place to introduce a baby to the world. The staff are angels in disguise, loving, caring, placid, generous with their time, patient and extremely helpful. I was on the first rally to keep hospital open. I’ll be on the next one if it’s necessary.”

On Boxing Day 19-year-old Shauni Brooks gave birth to her first baby – Emily Burke weighing 7lb 2.5 oz – at the centre.

Shauni, who lives in Holme Road Matlock Bath with partner David Burke, said she always wanted to have her baby at the centre and was backing the campaign to keep it open.

She added: “I knew straight away I wanted to have my baby there. It made the experience much better.”

Paul Carney, assistant director of commissioning for NHS Derbyshire County, said the NHS was currently reviewing all of its spending as part of wider plans to make savings over the next four years.

He added: “Much of the detail of where these savings can be made is dependent on the publication of the NHS Operating Framework in December, but in the meantime we will have to consider all areas of spending, and this includes Darley Dale Birth Centre. “Any proposals would be scrutinised by the Improvement and Scrutiny Committee, an independent body monitoring our public engagement activity, and be subject to public consultation.”

To visit the centre’s new web page, go to www.facebook.com and search for “We love Darley Birth Centre” or let us know what you think of the centre on the Mercury’s Facebook page or at www.matlockmercury.co.uk