Darley Birth Centre is under threat again as cash-strapped health bosses consider ways of saving money.
A Don’t Ditch Darley campaign has now been launched to fight the NHS proposals and Tory MP Patrick McLoughlin, who was behind the battle to save the maternity unit five years ago, has called for an urgent meeting with the PCT to find out what has gone wrong since.
The unit was temporarily closed in 2006 but after protest group MOMS – Maintain Our Maternity Services – collected 5,500 signatures against the closure it was reopened a year later.
However there were always fears that it could be put back on a hit list and last December campaigners launched an online appeal to boost use of the centre as the number of mums giving birth there was low.
This week those fears became reality as David Sharp, chief executive of the NHS in Derbyshire, said another review was on the cards. He announced the centre would cost the NHS around £1.5million over the next five years and pointed out about 500 babies would be born at the centre during that time but the money could also pay for 281 hip operations or provide 190 coronary artery bypass grafts.
He added: “It is our duty to ensure that services provide the best possible value for money and are equally accessible to patients across the county.
“Extensive research has 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.
“There is also no evidence to say that births at a stand alone birth centre have better outcomes than the birth centres in major hospitals.
“If the centre was to close, the only potential additional travelling would be if a woman with a low-risk pregnancy chooses to give birth in one of the major hospital’s midwife-led units rather than have a home birth.”
Mr McLoughlin said: “I was sorry to learn that the Darley Birth Unit may not be proving viable. The community fought hard to keep it five years ago, but it was always the case that it would have to be used enough to justify its costs. Sadly, that may not be the case after all. I have already arranged an urgent meeting with the Primary Care Trust to hear more about their proposals and how the situation has arisen.”
Diana Dakin, chairman of Matlock Hospitals League of Friends, said: “This government is talking about looking after rural communities but they are just eroding them bit by bit. If they close this centre it will be another nail in the coffin.”
Mums who have used the centre have also reacted angrily to the news and demanded the service is protected.
Sue Corner said: “It was the perfect choice for me especially as my baby would not feed properly and I ended up staying nearly a week. The staff were brilliant and I felt really well looked after.”
Clare Conder added: “I had my youngest daughter the day it re-opened. The staff and the centre were fabulous, it will be a massive shame to lose this wonderful place.”
n The Mercury will be running a special feature on the proposals and the campaign to save the birthing unit next week. To pledge your support for the Don’t Ditch Darley campaign please comment online email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; comment on our facebook page or tweet your support to twitter.com/MatMerc. There is also a We love Darley Birth Centre Facebook page.