SAVING Buxton’s Corbar Birth Centre from closure will come at the cost of other services, the man in charge of the local health trust has told the Buxton Advertiser this week.
David Sharp, chief executive of the NHS Derby City and NHS Derbyshire County cluster, said that was the reality behind the tough financial decisions which were going to have to be made.
“If the decision is to keep Corbar open then we’re going to have to go back and say to the public: so now what are the other things that you are going to go without?” asked Mr Sharp, who nevertheless reassured local residents that their comments during the forthcoming engagement process about Corbar would be taken into consideration when the final decision is made.
“What we are genuinely trying to do is open up a period of public consultation and public conversation about this.
“Everyone knows some tough decisions are coming and we want to listen to what people have to say, we want to have a consultation, a conversation.”
The trust have said that their review of Corbar’s future involves only where births take place and will not affect antenatal or postnatal appointments or antenatal classes which wil continue to be provided locally.
However, in a further blow to High Peak mums, if the decision to close Corbar for births was taken, then women would also no longer be able to return there following the birth of their child at Macclesfield or Stockport, Mr Sharp revealed.
“It’s going to be difficult if the unit is not there,” Mr Sharp said.
“One of the things I think we will say is that we think people shouldn’t go back to an intermediary rehab facility (after they have given birth). You’re either ready to go home or you’re not.”
Any changes to services at Corbar will inevitably bring fears for the job security of the staff who currently work at the unit, but Mr Sharp was keen to allay those worries.
Buxton’s birth rate was not expected to change, “so those clinicians will still be required though we may need them to work in new teams, in new environments or in new ways.
“We’ve not got some massive contraceptive programme that’s going to stop the births so we will need to figure out how to give that support equally. National policy also says that the number of midwives and health visitors needs to increase not decrease.”
Approval to plan the consultation was expected to get the go-ahead at a meeting of the health trust yesterday (Wednesday), with a final decision on whether to close Corbar for births is expected by the autumn with services changing by next spring.
And when asked what form the public consultation process will take, Mr Sharp said: “It’s too early to say but I would be very surprised if didn’t involve not only a series of public meetings but also a series of meeting with the GPs in the area who, essentially as well as the patients, are going to be the decision makers that shape this.
“There will be some meetings in public but not public meetings, like the meetings with GPs where it is not unreasonable for the public to have a record of it but it probably won’t be held in public.” Many High Peak mums as well as local councillors have expressed concerns about babies being born on the A6 as expectant women make their way to Stepping Hill Hospital should the plans go ahead - but Mr Sharp was unconvinced of this issue.
“If I thought that was the reality, I wouldn’t be embarking on this.We have a pattern of provision by which cancer patients don’t die on the A6 or heart patients don’t die on the A6.
“The births that we had at the unit last year were not emergencies. People walked up on a pre-planned basis so we do tend to have some order in this.”
But Mr Sharp said he did not dismiss fears over the issue completely as he wanted to hear abouyt people’s experiences during the consulation.
“I’m not dismissing the story because I’m not a woman in labour in Buxton town centre but it seems to have a mythology that’s bigger than the facts to me.”
“The vast majority of women in this area actually have their births in birthing units outside of Corbar and there’s something that they get out of that experience which is not the distress of giving birth on the A6,” said Mr Sharp.
“It will be part of the public debate.”
With plans afoot for a new community hospital in Buxton, aiming to bring in new services to the town and eliminate the need for people to travel elsewhere for some appointments, the Advertiser asked: why can’t a state of the art maternity unit be incorporated into that?
“We have a model in mind about how we think maternity services should be located. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a different model for older people’s services or learning disability services or chest infections,” said Mr Sharp.
“So it’s really judged on a service-by-service basis where people tend to look at it in terms of a hospital-by-hospital basis.
“It’s not a blank cheque. If we build a new hospital in Buxton it will have to be based on where money was being saved elsewhere in the NHS system.”