Our Darley questions are answered by NHS

Last week we set out five questions that readers wanted answering on the proposed closure of Darley Birth Centre.

We have received official answers from Dr David Black, medical director of NHS Derbyshire County PCT and Sarah Turner-Saint, head of communications at Chesterfield Royal Hospital on behalf of chief executive Eric Morton.

In summary they have said that all midwives know about the centre and that it is being fully promoted at Chesterfield Royal so they do not understand why anyone would say anything different.

Dr Black reckons having a baby at Darley costs the NHS double and the hospital’s PR chief says the open day was cancelled simply because of the snow at the time.

Here are their answers.

n What is the real cost of Darley Birth Centre?

Dr David Black said: “We’re still working on the exact costs, but what we do know is that the price of a birth is £1,236 and births cost between £1,100 and £3,000 extra on top of that at Darley Birth Centre. So births at Darley can cost double or more”

n Why was an open day at Darley cancelled?

Sarah Turner-Saint said: “There has been much made of the decision to cancel the open day planned for last December. The cancellation was not a cynical ploy pre-empting any consultation, ie, ‘why bother?’

“The decision was simply made because of the snow and ice and the level of staff sickness amongst midwives at the time. We made this very clear.

“It did not seem sensible or wise to have a PR event for mums-to-be and risk them travelling in less than ideal conditions, with many key staff unavailable.

“The plan was to host it in May this year, by which time NHS Derbyshire County Primary Care Trust had announced its intention to consult and we did not wish to turn the event in to a media circus.”

n Why are midwives unaware of the centre?

Dr David Black said: “We’re as curious as you about why people are saying this. The service run through Chesterfield provides women with the leaflet which contains the option of using Darley.

“We’ve double checked that all midwives know and understand about the unit.

“They certainly know that they’re there.

“The unit isn’t suitable for women that aren’t low risk, which is why it isn’t offered in some cases. But they’re very well known by the midwives.

“We can’t guarantee that every midwife will offer every service to every woman, but Darley is certainly not being kept secret, quite the opposite.”

n Why was a mum discouraged from using the unit?

Dr Black said: “Again, I don’t quite understand why women are saying this. The Royal has put a lot of effort into highlighting the availability of the service. I think it is promoting Darley. They have no reason not to want to.

“I think the fundamental issue is the number of women. There aren’t enough women giving birth within the reasonable catchment of the service. It’s been in the public eye quite a lot, I certainly don’t think it’s a secret.

n Why is the Royal Hospital not promoting Darley now?

Sue Turner-Saint said: “Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has not ceased to promote Darley Birth Centre. Since its reprisal in 2007 we have invested in a new identity for the centre, exhibition materials, promotional events, web pages, posters, leaflets, flyers and earlier this year in an information video. This can be viewed on You Tube, Facebook and on the Royal’s own website.

“Indeed we have probably invested more in communications for Darley Birth Centre than we have in information for women about home birth – and birth at the Chesterfield Birth Centre (based at the Royal).

“It could be argued that investment in Darley has monopolised our obligations to provide information about all birth options – so women across the whole of North Derbyshire can make an informed choice about how and where they wish to have their baby.”

n What do you think of their answers to your questions? You can comment online at www.matlockmercury.co.uk or send your letters to news@matlockmercury.co.uk.