Maternity unit closure fears

Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital
Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital

Fears have been raised over the safety of expectant mums after it emerged that the district’s maternity service had to temporarily close on five occasions last year.

Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust closed to admissions when there were not enough midwives to look after all the women needing complex care.

Closures in 2016 affected the trust’s labour ward at Pinderfields Hospital and midwife-led birth units at Dewsbury and Pontefract.

Gill Pownall, assistant director of nursing and midwifery, said only two women were diverted to neighbouring hospitals.

She said: “The duration of a closure is dependent upon the number of women in the unit and the complexity of the care they require.

“Where the unit is closed for a protracted period of time this is to ensure that all women receive high quality and safe care.

“The unit will not reopen until it is safe to do so.

“Any woman contacting the maternity unit during a closure would be triaged and supported to access care in another NHS trust. No women have ever been moved out of the unit.”

Mid Yorkshire said the closures were not caused solely by staffing shortages.

But recruitment problems and government budget cuts are being blamed for a 70 per cent rise in closures of maternity units in England over two years.

Figures obtained by the Labour Party show maternity wards temporarily closed 382 times during 2016.

Wakefield Labour MP Mary Creagh said: “Giving birth is an anxious time for mums-to-be without worrying that you will be turned away from your local maternity ward.

“Staff shortages and a lack of beds in our maternity units are the result of the chronic underfunding of our NHS by the government and it cannot be allowed to continue.

“Women in Wakefield deserve to know that they can give birth in a safe hospital environment and not be shunted off to Leeds or Barnsley by the sudden closure of Pinderfields maternity unit.”

Mid Yorkshire said the last time it closed to maternity admissions was for a one-hour period in February this year.