More births but less maternity services - MP approaches Health Secretary

January 21, 2009 12:00 AM

Rochdale's Health Campaign Boss - Councillor Jean AshworthPaul Rowen MP plans to grill the health secretary after an increase in the number of births has caused extra panic about declining maternity services.

Rochdale Infirmary is due to shed its Accident and Emergency and Maternity units in 2011, throwing vital health services into chaos.

Mr Rowen has now called for Health Minister Alan Johnson to review the decision, saying that 'estimates used to justify closing Rochdale Infirmary's maternity unit have proved to be wildly inaccurate'.

In justifying their decision to cut maternity services two years ago, health bosses predicted that 2700 children would be born in Rochdale in 2007. The actual figure was over 400 more than this estimate at 3113. This has been replicated across Greater Manchester, with health bosses predicting 31,100 births but with the actual figure at 35,030.

The prediction of 2700 annual births has been used for every year up to 2015, so if the trend continues every year up until then, the estimated births will fall thousands short of the reality.

It has been confirmed by Rochdale Infirmary that there has been an increase in the number of babies being born, but the Pennine Acute Trust, who runs the hospital, insists that services in Oldham and North Manchester are fully equipped to cope with local needs.

A spokesman for Pennine Acute Trust said: "The forthcoming development of the new £32m maternity unit at North Manchester General and the £40m neonatal intensive care unit at The Royal Oldham will ensure new mothers and babies receive the very best care.

"The new neonatal intensive care unit at Oldham, one of three units in Greater Manchester, is able to care for the smallest and most vulnerable babies.

"These units will offer modern accommodation for women and families and provide a more home like environment.

"Along with the additional choice of midwifery led care, there is the opportunity for women to deliver in a low tech environment whilst having the support of full Obstetric services if needed.

"We have recently appointed a number of new midwives to further improve the levels of care we provide for new mothers while these units are being built."

Paul Rowen is writing to Alan Johnson to demand a full review of the situation. He said: "These figures are proof of what I have said all along. That health bosses have miscalculated figures to try and justify this decision ordered by the Labour Government. These figures are not within a reasonable margin of error - they are a full maternity unit out for Greater Manchester.

"I will be asking the Health Minister Alan Johnson MP to now carry out a full review of this reckless decision based on a bogus consultation.

"The Government has a duty now to look again and I expect the 2008 figures to show the same level of understatement when they are released shortly.

"The fact is that the prediction of 2700 used to justify closing our maternity unit is the same until 2015. Meaning that on current evidence they will be thousands out."

Councillor Jean Ashworth, who works as a healthcare assistant at the Infirmary, called on her colleagues at Rochdale Council to support the fight. She added: "The proposed downgrading would throw the town into absolute chaos and would put lives at risk. Rochdale Council needs to do its bit and take this seriously because we have to be together on this. It's not a political issue, it's a serious health issue."