NHS trust explains new plans for Friarwood Birth Centre in Pontefract as MP Yvette Cooper hands in petition

MP Yvette Cooper presented a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the trust last week. She's campaigning for Friarwood Birth Centre to stay open.
MP Yvette Cooper presented a petition with over 1,000 signatures to the trust last week. She's campaigning for Friarwood Birth Centre to stay open.

New proposals for the future of Pontefract Hospital's maternity unit will give new mums "greater continuity of care", NHS bosses have said.

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust indicated last year it was seeking to close the Friarwood Birth Centre at the hospital, as they argued it was underused.

Pontefract Hospital

Pontefract Hospital

That idea has been dropped however, and it was revealed in May that Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for all health services across the district, was now pushing for the centre to be kept open on an on-demand basis.

More antenatal and post-natal services could also be based at Pontefract, but a final decision is yet to be made.

Last week, local MP Yvette Cooper presented a petition, which was signed by more than 1,000 people, to the trust to keep Friarwood open. She has accused the trust of being "vague" in their intentions and is pushing for more guarantees regarding its future.

But Martin Barkley, Mid Yorkshire's chief executive, said: "The trust’s request to consider the closure of our birth centre at Pontefract was withdrawn around two months ago.

Ms Cooper wants "guarantees" over the future of the unit.

Ms Cooper wants "guarantees" over the future of the unit.

"Nevertheless, we do recognise the strength of feeling about this issue, and we would like to reassure our mums to be that it is our intention they still have the choice of giving birth at our Friarwood Birth Centre in Pontefract, if clinically appropriate for them to do so.

"The solution we are developing would put in place a model of service that allows women to receive antenatal and postnatal care from a team of community midwives, who would also support deliveries in the Friarwood Birth Centre on an ‘on demand’ basis.

"This gives women much greater continuity of care in line with best practice in the national maternity strategy, whilst still allowing us to make the best use of our midwifery resources."

Mr Barkley added that a "women and children's hub" has been proposed for creation at Friarwood and that a final decision would be made following advice from an independent group of medical professionals in the autumn.

Trust chief executive Martin Barkley said the new proposals would offer "continuity of care" for new mums.

Trust chief executive Martin Barkley said the new proposals would offer "continuity of care" for new mums.

Ms Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, said: "Over 1,000 babies were born in the Pontefract unit over the last few years and mums should a have choice rather than having to go to Pinderfields, which is already overstretched.

"Once again we are being hit by cost cutting in the NHS and it is completely unfair that whenever Mid Yorkshire Trust has problems it’s always Pontefract that gets hit.

"As a result of our campaign the trust have now agreed to look at other options including putting more community services in alongside the birth centre.

"But they still told me they need to cut costs, so frankly vague “intentions” aren’t enough - we need a guarantee that the birth unit will stay open.

"That’s why we’re keeping up the pressure to keep the midwife-led unit open until the final decision has been made."

Local Democracy Reporting Service