Midwives await final birth centre decision

St Mary's Birth Centre at Melton which could close as part of the health authority's planned reorganisation of maternity services EMN-161130-150743001
St Mary's Birth Centre at Melton which could close as part of the health authority's planned reorganisation of maternity services EMN-161130-150743001
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The jobs of 17 midwives will be affected by plans to close St Mary’s Birth Centre at Melton, it has emerged this week.

The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) say not enough mothers are having babies at the Thorpe Road site to make it sustainable.

They want to centralise key Leicestershire maternity services in the city in a bid to make them more accessible to parents across the county.

There are three full-time midwives employed at the Melton birth centre and 14 part-time midwives.

The facility also has seven maternity care assistants based there.

Staff would not comment on the health trust’s proposals to close the Melton centre.

But the Royal College of Midwives union (RCM) said employees were awaiting the outcome of the consultation into the proposal, which will start early in 2017 and continue for about 12 weeks.

A spokesperson for RCM said: “Our members at St Mary’s Birth Centre have been told that no absolute decisions have been made on closing the centre and they are waiting with interest to see what happens after the consultation.”

A spokesperson for UHL said: “We have no intention to reduce the numbers of midwives or doctors if the proposals are approved.

“In fact, we may need to increase numbers to run a bigger, more complex service.”

If St Mary’s closes, Melton mums will have to travel to Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) to give birth at an enhanced matternity centre.

Inpatient maternity services will be provided by midwives and doctors in a Combined Care Unit (CCU), supported by the neonatal intensive care unit in case of emergencies.

A midwife-only birth centre would also be available at the LRI near the CCU and the trust are considering providing another standalone birth centre, likely to be at Leicester Glenfield Hospital.

Home births supported by midwives are another option.

Melton babies have been born on the St Mary’s Hospital site since 1870 - the separate birth centre opened in July 2003.

The birth centre has been threatened with closure twice recently.

It was saved in 2010 after a campaign team delivered a petition to Downing Street and its future was also under review three years ago.

Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan has yet to comment on the new proposals threatening the future of the birth centre.

He was abroad in his role as Foreign Offfice minister when the Melton Times tried to contact him this week.