Calls have been made for improved efforts to encourage mums-to-be to use maternity facilities in Berwick.
Figures reveal that only two out of 22 pregnant women registered with Berwick Maternity Unit gave birth there in the first two months of this year.
It represents a worrying fall after an initial boost in births following the maternity unit’s reopening last July after which eight babies had been born in Berwick with four other deliveries transferred.
“There is an apparent disparity between such a small percentage of women choosing the BMU and the generally observed theme of a demand for local services in the area,” said scrutiny officer Paul Allen in a report to a council working group set up to investigate concerns over health care provision in Berwick.
As a result, the Berwick Patient Care Task and Finish Group has made a number of recommendations to Northumberland County Council’s policy board.
It has recommended that health and care services be promoted at locality level across Berwick and that a comprehensive register of healthcare facilities within Northumberland and across its borders along NEAS transport routes be produced.
The group has also advised that primary care providers and the new Berwick hospital be encouraged to work in partnership to develop local services on a needs basis, subject to appropriate clinical safety.
The working group has also discussed access to healthcare for residents if there is a ‘yes’ vote for Scottish independence. Many people travel over the border to use health services such as Borders General Hospital and Coldstream Medical Practice which are closer than their nearest facilities in England.
The working group has questioned how often English ambulances are currently deployed on jobs north of the border, and vice versa.
It recommends the eligibility criteria for patient transport appointments with all providers of ambulance services, including North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), be determined, defined and advertised to all GPs and healthcare facilities for display and, when appropriate, communication to patients.
It also seeks a register of the full range of patient transport services available from NEAS and all known alternative patient transport arrangements, including costs, be produced.