Battle is on to save Pontefract birth unit

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper is trying to meet with the head of the NHS in England over plans to close a local maternity unit.

Friday, 25th January 2019, 2:49 pm
Updated Friday, 25th January 2019, 3:53 pm
Pontefract, Castleford and Normanton MP Yvette Cooper (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Ms Cooper has again attacked local health bosses who are proposing to shut the Friarwood Birth Centre at Pontefract Hospital before the end of the year, claiming that “dodgy figures” have been used to justify the move.

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the site, insists that no final decision has yet been made, but stands by its claim that the unit is underused and that midwifery staff would be best employed at Pinderfields Hospital.

The trust and Wakefield CCG have presented the case for the closure to NHS England, who would need to give permission before the move goes any further.

Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital

But Ms Cooper, who confronted the trust about the plans before Christmas, is trying to arrange her own meeting with Simon Stevens, the NHS’ chief executive, to lobby for the unit to be saved.

Describing the proposals as a “complete outrage”, she said: “The trust seemed to be backing off their plans before Christmas, but now it’s clear they haven’t been listening at all. They have repeatedly used dodgy figures to try to close our services.

“Once again local health bosses are trying to solve problems at Pinderfields by closing good services at Pontefract – it is completely unfair.
“I’m sick and tired of them always hitting services in the towns and always moving them back into cities instead.

“This is bad for maternity care and family choice, goes against all national evidence, and is unfair on local mums.”

The trust has said it will listen to opinions from people who have used Friarwood or may use it in the future, but has strongly denied suggestions that the statistics they have used are untoward.

Martin Barkley, the trust’s chief executive, said: “The facts speak for themselves –approximately 2,000 women from Pontefract and neighbouring areas give birth each year but only around 200 choose to have their baby at Pontefract’s Friarwood Birth Centre.

“It is right and proper that we examine this issue.”