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South Lakes Women Need 24Hr Maternity Options - Farron

February 23, 2016 12:06 PM

A national maternity review calling for women to be given more choice and control over how to give birth means nothing unless people have meaningful options, South Lakes MP Tim Farron has insisted, as he renewed calls for the restoration of a 24hr maternity unit in Kendal.

The independent Cumberlege Report was set up following an investigation into the dysfunctional maternity unit at Furness General Hospital, part of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust. One of the key recommendations of the report was that women should have control over their own personal maternity care budget - worth around £3000 - so that they can have greater choice about where and how they give birth, whether they give birth in a midwife-run unit, a hospital or at home.

However, local MP Tim Farron has pointed out that pregnant women in South Lakeland do not have access to the full range of options, following the closure of the post-natal care ward and the ending of 24 hour cover at Helme Chase Maternity Unit at Westmorland General Hospital, with midwives only providing over-night cover on an on-call basis.

The report acknowledges that "maternity services in remote areas have unavoidably higher costs because the level of activity is too low for services to operate at an efficient scale" and welcomes the decision to introduce a 'sparsity adjustment' into the funding formula used to allocate Clinical Commissioning Group budgets. The report insists that "there is no clinical reason why an obstetric unit cannot operate safely in a remote and rural area with a relatively low number of births each year… [But] there are only likely to be a small handful of such units in the most remote areas of England." Tim has written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to put forward the case for 24hr cover at the Helme Chase Maternity Unit in Kendal.

Tim said: "It is right that women are given a range of childbirth options, but at the moment women in Westmorland simply do not have access to the full range of choices. Without a 24hr maternity service in Kendal, calls for greater choice mean nothing as women do not have meaningful options. This situation not only reduces women's options, but risks safety as women have to travel to hospitals elsewhere to give birth. We urgently need to restore full 24hr service to the Helme Chase Maternity Unit at Westmorland General Hospital."