Get behind unit before it’s too late

warning signs were there six months ago. The staff at the Darley Birth Centre were desperate to up its profile at Christmas time.

The ‘use it or lose it’ phrase was being bandied about and those who had fought long and hard to save the centre in 2006 were anxiously attempting to get more mums-to-be to commit to giving birth closer to home.

They could see it coming.

With just a couple of births a week in Darley, they knew all eyes would be on them when the bean-counters in the NHS had to come up with some budget slashing ideas.

Of course they were right to be worried and now that day has arrived.

The problem the midwives at this wonderful unit have is that all that seems to be put on the spreadsheet the managers peruse, on the way to the bottom line, is the number of births taking place.

The figure, which presumably is correct, is clearly on the low side and there is no arguing that £300,000 a year for 100 births is quite expensive.

What those figures aren’t revealing though is all the other services going on at the centre – which receive nothing but praise from all quarters.

Many mums transfer there to recover after giving birth elsewhere; there are ante-natal classes and postnatal classes; there are special services for those suffering from depression after giving birth and there is always someone there to offer advice.

The NHS chief executive trying to save the cash says there is no proof that Darley is any better than any other maternity hospital but therefore I can only assume he hasn’t taken into account the testimonies of most of the women who have used Darley and a larger hospital or even both.

They all seem to be saying just one thing, which is that Darley is a precious gem and it needs to be retained at all costs.

Money may be a bit tight but Mr Sharp needs to look elsewhere for his £300,000 a year.

However, one thing which would help fight him off is if all the mums-to-be out there asked to be allowed to have their baby at Darley. If the 100 a year turned into 500 then the Sword of Damocles hanging over Darley would be lifted.

Amanda Hatfield, editor