Result of maternity unit review imminent

Dave Evans is medical director of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Dave Evans is medical director of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

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THE review following the temporary closure of Berwick Maternity Unit has now been completed.

NHS chiefs are due to receive a detailed report of the findings on Monday (November 5), and will announce the immediate future of the unit sometime thereafter.

The date was announced by NHS officials at last week’s public meeting to discuss the future of Berwick Maternity Unit, following its sudden closure on August 1.

Representatives of North-umbria Healthcare Trust and commissioners NHS North of Tyne met the public, almost three months after the closure, at the invitation of Berwick Town Council.

David Evans, medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who answered questions at the town hall, said: “The meeting provided a welcome opportunity to talk directly with people in Berwick to explain our safety concerns and why we had to take the decision to suspend some of our midwifery led services pending a review.

“From the outset we have aimed to be open and honest with the public about why we took this action in the best interest of our patients and staff to ensure the highest levels of safety.”

However, some members of the public came away feeling frustrated and none the wiser.

Berwick mum Sarah Birch said: “I felt a bit like we were playing tennis against a brick wall, no matter how hard you hit that ball it kept getting thrown back.”

Around 70 members of the public heard presentations from Mr Evans, and Rachael Chapman, director of public engagement at NHS North of Tyne, before the floor was opened for questions.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith and Ian Lindley, executive member for adult care and wellbeing at Northumberland County council, both expressed their support for the unit.

The panel refused to be drawn on details of the two serious safety incidents, which triggered the closure, due to patient confidentiality.

But they assured those present that the incidents had occurred and that the patients in question were aware the incidents had been classified as serious.

When asked why the unit could not continue to provide inpatient aftercare, even while it was not catering for deliveries, Janice McNichol, head of midwifery at the trust, explained that five of the Berwick unit’s ten midwives were currently on rotation at Wansbeck, and therefore there were not enough staff left in Berwick to man the unit 24-7.

Retired midwife Iris Hannah highlighted the problem of diagnosing labour over the phone.

She said women who are sent home from hospital because they are not far enough along, or women who are told over the phone not to go in yet, face a mad last-minute dash to the hospital or a roadside birth.

Ms McNichol admitted that diagnosing the onset of birth was “very difficult”, and added: “On occasions we might get that call wrong.”

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