Health care fears to be investigated

Berwick Infirmary Maternity Unit

Berwick Infirmary Maternity Unit

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Ambulance response times and maternity services in Berwick are among issues to be investigated by a Northumberland County Council working group.

The Berwick Patient Care Task and Finish Group has been formed by the council’s care and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee, to “investigate concerns expressed by committee and local members about issues with patient care in the Berwick area”. The group, which includes Berwick county councillors Isabel Hunter, Jim Smith and Gavin Jones, has agreed a work programme to address “the key issues” of maternity services and transport.

Ambulance waiting times are a concern for Berwick residents, with the availability of vehicles at the town’s station limited. Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwick, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, recently took up the case of a 10-year-old boy from Norham, who had to wait an hour and 10 minutes for an ambulance to come from Amble despite suffering suspected meningitis. The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) admitted its response times in that and two other cases “fell short of what we would normally aim to achieve”.

Maternity services have also been a bone of contention in recent years. Deliveries at Berwick Maternity Unit were suspended in 2012 following a fall in the number of women giving birth there, and two safety incidents. Deliveries were reinstated last summer after 11 months, with the unit now open during the day time with a 24/7 on-call service so low risk mums can give birth at the unit or at home.

Since then, there have been 10 births and health chiefs are currently carrying out a review of how the new arrangements are working.

The task and finish group, chaired by Newbiggin Councillor Elizabeth Simpson, is due to meet tomorrow (March 28).

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