Community’s chance to quiz health chiefs

Corbar Maternity Unit public meeting, Dr David Black makes the case for closure
Corbar Maternity Unit public meeting, Dr David Black makes the case for closure

PEOPLE across the High Peak have been getting the opportunity to quiz health chiefs on their plans to close Buxton’s Corbar Birth Centre in the last few days.

Held on Friday morning and Monday evening, two public meetings took place at the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton and gave locals the chance to voice their concerns and fears about NHS Derbyshire County’s proposals to close Corbar for births.

It also gave the health trust the opportunity to explain the reasons behind their review of Corbar’s future in more detail.

NHS Derbyshire County are currently reviewing the future of Corbar Birth Centre and the Darley Birth Centre in Darley Dale as part of plans to cut costs as demand for NHS services increases.

However, the plans have caused outrage among local residents and campaigners have been fighting to save both centres since the review was announced in May.

A formal engagement process is currently underway and lasts until October 23. Local people can have their say on the plans online, by email or by post. An engagement document is available from the Buxton Advertiser office on Scarsdale Place, by visiting www.derbyshirecounty.nhs.uk or by calling 0800 032 32 35.

A final decision on Corbar’s future will be made in December at a meeting of NHS Derby City and NHS Derbyshire County cluster board.

The response times of ambulances in the High Peak was raised as a major concern at the first public meeting about Corbar Birth Centre last week.

During Friday’s meeting, Derbyshire County Councillor Pam Reddy said: “Earlier this week, I had a suspected heart attack and had to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance to take me to Stepping Hill Hospital. Quite often we have no ambulance in our area. That is not acceptable and it is going to get worse.”

And Cllr Reddy’s fears were also backed up by local residents during both meetings, who raised concerns that the ambulance service would struggle to cope with an increase in demand should Corbar close.

However, Dr David Black, medical director with NHS Derbyshire County, replied: “We have to call an ambulance for one in five women who use these units and I doubt there will be any significant change.”

If Corbar was closed, travelling to other maternity units such as Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport or Macclesfield District General Hospital is also a cause for concern for many local people and was raised in detail during both meetings.

One member of the public said: “Buxton is unique in this country. We are 1,000 feet about sea level and the road situation in winter is often shocking.

“I’ve had three babies, two had to be born away from Corbar and one was born at Corbar and from start to finish it was 20 minutes from labour to birth.

“The weather at that time was hideous and if I had to go to Stepping Hill that baby would have been born on the A6.

“Are you going to have a special lay-by for those ladies who have to pull off the road to have their babies while travelling?”

But Katie Donley, Public Patient Involvement Manager, said: “The statistics we have from last winter are no women presented at Corbar or Darley who had not already been booked in to give birth there.

“There is a multi-agency group led by Derbyshire County Council that looks at emergency planning for these situations.

“ This isn’t just an issue for women giving birth. People have heart attacks and strokes and need A&E so this is something we have been looking at for a long time and working on.

“The group that is working on this basically has worked flat out to bring out 4x4s or whatever they need to do to get to people when the weather is bad. There were absolutely no incidents: they got to every single person.

“It you did call 999, they would find a way to get to you so it is not just a birth issue.”

Dr David Black added: “Travel is a significant disadvantage. That is one of the really big issues around this proposal and I can’t deny that.”

High Peak MP Andrew Bingham asked whether those women who would have used Darley would be able to instead use Corbar if Darley was closed so as to take Corbar over the recommended number of 300 births a year needed to make a unit viable.

Sally Baughen, Maternity Matters Programme Lead, said: “When Darley closed in 2007 we looked at the stats to see how many women then transferred over to Corbar and in the first six months, the numbers at Corbar were actually lower. In the second, they were slightly higher so only very small numbers of women decided to go from Darley to Corbar.”

And Dr Black added: “If Darley is closed more money is released than if Corbar is closed and you can see that, so the arguments for Corbar, they are still strong but not as strong as for Darley.”

NHS Derbyshire County have said that if Corbar was to be closed for births, antenatal and postnatal appointments and antenatal classes would continue to be provided locally.

But many local people fear this would not happen and they would have to travel to Stockport or Macclesfield to access this service.

But Dr Black said this was definitely not the case. “It would be absolutely unacceptable to me let alone to you that you would need to travel for your antenatal and postnatal care. It is not right and that is not what will happen.”

Expanding the services available at the birth centres to make them more financially viable was also raised but Dr Black said this would be too expensive.

“In terms of expanding the service, it is just not possible,” he said.

“If we were able to provide more intervention at Darley like instrumental deliveries, forceps and caesarian sections, less women would need transfers but the amount of infrastructure required for that is enormous and the cost vast and it is just not practical.”

However, exactly how this care would be provided in the future should Corbar be closed was still unclear, Sally Baughen said.

“In terms of the future provision, one option is to continue as we are. There are other options around community antenatal and postnatal care in the localities and varying models of supporting home births in this locality because recognising the geography of the area, a single home birth service run from Stepping Hill wouldn’t work.”