The threatened closure of Melton’s St Mary’s Birth Centre has moved a big step closer after the government announced it would be investing £450million into Leicester’s hospitals.
The money will pay for plans put forward by University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL) to build a new maternity hospital in the city and consolidate the county’s birthing services in Leicester.
That would include the closure of the Melton unit, which the trust says is well down on the 500 births a year it should be dealing with to make the service cost-effective.
The number of babies born at St Mary’s in recent years are: 2008 - 237; 2009 - 277; 2010 -260; 2011 - 254; 2012 - 252; 2013 - 240; 2014 - 195; 2015 - 162; 2016 - 181; 2017 -127; 2018 -131.
A consultation has been held on the closure and a public meeting in the town last November provoked passionate opposition to the proposed loss of the unit with residents voicing concerns that St Mary’s isn’t promoted enough to get more mums to use it and that Melton women would face a 20-mile journey to Leicester to have their babies.
Parents also praised the quality of post-natal after-care at the birth centre with several mums saying it was vital in helping them breast feed and care for their new child.
The health trust has welcomed the new government cash injection this week and confirmed it would fund a new maternity hospital in the city, as well as a dedicated children’s hospital at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.
In a major reorganisation of health services for Leicestershire residents, the trust said the money would also pay for for two ‘super’ intensive care units with 100 beds, a large planned care treatment cent at the Glenfield Hospital, modernised wards, operating theatres and imaging facilities, plus additional parking.
John Adler, chief executive of Leicester’s Hospitals said: “We are ecstatic to hear that we will benefit from major national capital funding to invest in our local hospitals.
“This will allow us to fulfil our ambition of creating the local hospitals that our patients and staff deserve and can be proud of.
“This money will allow us to realise a major programme of investment to transform our hospitals and improve the way that we deliver care.”
In terms of the future St Mary’s Birth Centre in Melton, the trust says: “If through public consultation the decision is to close the unit, then we would not close until we had opened the new maternity hospital at the royal infirmary.
“However, if there is a material change to the fabric of the building or if there are unforeseen staffing issues, either of which might challenge the safety of the service, or if the number of births dropped further, then we may have to seek support to close it sooner.
“If we can’t provide a safe service there it could lead to its closure without further consultation, and we would seek support from the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to do this.”