Campaigners said they are ‘devastated’ by the decision which was taken by members of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutlands’ Clinical Commissioning Groups (LLR CCGs) at an Extraordinary Board Meeting.
The closure of the Melton birth centre is part of a £450million revamp of hospital services across Leicestershire and Rutland, which received the green light today.
There was widespread support for the baby unit to stay open in the town in a three-month public consultation due to high standard care for mothers before, during and after they have given birth.
Three petitions were also submitted signed by more than 6,000 supporters,
But the health authority decided there were not enough babies born there every year to make it financially viable and that it was preferable to move the service to the Leicester General Hospital to make it more accessible for more women in the counties and closer to higher level medical facilities.
Reacting to today’s decision, the Save St Mary’s Birth Centre group, which campaigned to retain it several times over more than a decade, said in a statement: “It is hugely disappointing that NHS bosses have clearly not listened to views expressed through the consultation process, when it comes to proposed reconfiguration of maternity services, in the Decision Making Business Case presented today.
“St Mary’s Birth Centre has offered gold standard maternity and postnatal care for decades.
“It remains our belief that with the correct resourcing and promotion it could continue to do so, providing quality care for mothers, and saving the NHS money long-term.
“The closure of St Mary’s will have far-reaching effects for families throughout the whole of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland who will be unable to access this much-loved facility in the future.
“But it will be keenly felt in Melton Mowbray where the loss of a vital community service will be a blow for the growing town.”
The group added: “We are naturally devastated by today’s news but would like to thank all our supporters over the years who have fought tirelessly with us to save the St Mary’s Birth Centre.
“We have been promised further public engagement and look forward to continuing the dialogue, to ensure the best possible maternity and postnatal care is on offer moving forward.”
When St Mary’s closes, Melton mothers will need to travel to the city to the Leicester General, where a new midwife-led standalone baby unit will be provided, or to a new maternity hospital at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, both of which were approved at the meeting.
The Leicester General birth centre will only be offered on a trial basis at first, which is concerning for the Save St Mary’s Birth Centre group.
They added in their statement: “We remain concerned that the new standalone midwife-led unit acting as the replacement at the Leicester General is still only earmarked for a trial period, with no apparent resourcing allocated to its success.
“We remind NHS bosses that standalone birth units are still considered one of the four types of place of birth which are part of the ‘good quality’ standard set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
“We are also concerned about the package of post-natal care on offer, with the post-natal ward closing in the proposed move.
“We implore NHS bosses to think again about this aspect given the impact maternal mental health, breastfeeding rates, and bonding and attachment can have on getting families off to the best start.
“Not all mothers will want a night or two receiving extra care after giving birth, but it is vital those who do, are able to continue to have this option.”