Boost for campaign

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Campaigners fighting to save Corbar Birth Centre have been given a major boost by the country’s top experts.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have called for more babies to be born within their own communities at midwife-led centres like Corbar – rather than in hospitals, which would be the case under NHS Derbyshire County’s plan to close the centre.

And the Hands Off Corbar campaign received more ammunition with the NHS’s own experts highlighting the Centre as an example of good practice.

The Royal College (RCOG) last week released a report calling for a radical shake-up of existing women’s health care, which it says “cannot be sustained.”

It says too many babies are being “born in the traditional hospital setting” and care needs to focus on “providing the right care, at the right time, in the right place, provided by the right person and which enhances the women’s experience.”

Care needs to be driven “back into the community with appropriate provision of facilities and professionals with the appropriate skills. This will mean more midwife-led deliveries” it adds.

Women and patients should have a choice not only over the care and treatment they are offered but also where to seek care, the report states, adding “there is some evidence that women are not always offered the full range of options available to them.”

Dame Joan Higgins, Chair of the Expert Advisory Group of the RCOG, said: “Women (should) still have ready access to hospital-based care but this will be when clinical need dictates or the woman chooses to have her care delivered in this setting.”

And the community-based maternity care provided by Corbar Birth Centre, which is based at Buxton Hospital, was also recognised as an example of good practice in a document written as part of the NHS’s major Making It Better reform of maternity services in the north-west.

The RCOG report was welcomed by a group fighting to save Corbar Birth Centre, which is currently being reviewed by NHS Derbyshire County as part of plans to cut costs as demand for NHS services increase.

The Save Corbar Birth Centre group said: “As national birth rates hit a 40-year high, Derbyshire PCT needs to take on board RCOG’s professional recommendations to concentrate their maternity policies on the mother rather than looking at ways to cut costs.

“As outlined in the RCOG report, hospital maternity units such as Stockport’s Stepping Hill and Macclesfield General Hospital are finding it increasingly difficult to provide adequate antenatal and postnatal care as well as facilitating actual births.

“The PCT’s plan to shut Corbar is not just short-sighted, it is unsustainable. Closing the centre would mean a third of women in labour, categorised as low-risk, would then have to go outside the county to deliver their babies at hospitals which are already finding it difficult to cope.

“Plans to take away maternity community services from the High Peak go against not just local and regional opinion, it is also out of sync with the respected judgements of RCOG and the Royal College of Midwives.”

But David Sharp, Chief Executive of the NHS Derby City and NHS Derbyshire County cluster, said: “The report recommends more home births and the use of midwifery-led units which we fully endorse. However, the report does not advocate the use of stand-alone midwifery units.

“Women in Derbyshire can benefit from a choice of four adjacent midwifery-led units offering swift access to consultant-led services if needed. Stepping Hill Hospital has a birthing centre with two birthing pools. Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Royal Derby Hospital and Macclesfield District General Hospital also have midwife-led birthing units.

“Midwifery-led units adjacent to major hospital enable a wider range of women to benefit from midwifery-led care.

“We agree with Anthony Falconer, the RCOG president, who says; ‘There is no doubt if you look at the worst scenario of serious complications, you need the right person, a senior person, there immediately.’”

“This is exactly what midwifery-led units adjacent to major hospitals are designed to do, with consultants close at hand should they be required.

“It is not only low-risk women who benefit from these units. Access to 24/7 medical obstetric services is also better achieved by having adjacent midwifery-led units at major hospitals.

“By contrast, between 23 per cent and 30 per cent of mothers booked in to Corbar or Darley birth centres are transferred in labour with all the associated complications and risks, as well as increased costs and potential impact on the centres should the midwife need to accompany the mother. This is a higher transfer rate than that for home births locally.

“Also, by having midwives at Corbar and Darley, which represent less than four per cent of the total births across Derbyshire and Derby City, we are limited in being able to make the best use of midwifery skills and expertise for the widest number of women, which the report strongly recommends.”