Parents have reacted angrily to plans unveiled this week to close St Mary’s Birth Centre in Melton.
The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust say the service is no longer cost-effective because 170 babies are born there every year and there needed to be between 350 and 500 annual births to make it sustainable.
The trust announced proposals to centralise maternity services in Leicester in a bid to make them accessible for more families in Leicestershire and Rutland and save the authority around £400 million.
Readers innundated the Melton Times this week with messages condemning the decision which will mean mothers will need to travel to Leicester Royal Infirmary (LRI) to have their baby and they would no longer have midwife and in-patient support at the town’s birth centre.
Sarah Graham, of Waltham, said: “This cannot be allowed to happen. The town and surrounding villages are getting bigger and so we are even more in need of this wonderful birthing centre.”
Zoe Eggleston said: “I had both my daughters at Melton birth centre and I was so happy to be able to as no way did I want to travel to either Leicester or Nottingham unless I had complications. This will be a huge loss to the area if it closes.”
Scalford resident Jenny Harby praised the support services given by midwives at the birth centre to new mums like herself and added: “If the centre is at risk because of the relatively low number of births that take place there, that seems very misguided as that’s just part of what St Mary’s is about.”
The plans, which were leaked to the media earlier this week, are part of the trust’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan, covering the period up to 2021,
Doctors, midwives, nurses and patient representatives have helped put together plans for the future of maternity services in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland based on what parents had told them and to ensure that services are safe and sustainable for the future.
The reorganisation, if approved, would see the Melton birth centre close and all babies in the area born on one site - the LRI - but the authority said it will consider establishing a standalone midwifery birth centre which is likely to be at the Leicester General Hospital.
Ian Scudamore, consultant obstetrician at the trust, said: “With around 10,500 babies born locally in six locations, our staff and resources are not being used effectively.
“This configuration can put pressure on services in one or more locations at any particular time – it is also not equitable for all mums and their families.
“These issues have been recognised in a number of reviews of our maternity services which have consistently said that in their current form they are unsustainable.”
The trust has no plans to make anyone from the St Mary’s Birth Centre redundant. It says it may need to employ more doctors and midwives to run what will be ‘a bigger, more complex service’.
A consultation into the proposals is likely to start early next year and last approximately 12 weeks.
What do you think? Have you used St Mary’s Birth Centre and do you think it will be a loss for the borough? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org