Harwich/Clacton: MP ready to fight for future of two coastal maternity units

EADT - News; Douglas Carswell [MP] is opposing plans for a windfarm in the St Osyth area.; pics by A

EADT - News; Douglas Carswell [MP] is opposing plans for a windfarm in the St Osyth area.; pics by Alex Fairfull 13-06-08; EADT 26/6/08; EADT 16.7.10 - Credit: Archant

An MP is ready to go into battle and lead from the front to secure the future of two coastal maternity units.

It was revealed last week that the maternity units at Clacton and Harwich community hospitals would be closed until June with pregnant mums instead delivering their babies at Colchester General Hospital.

Clacton MP Douglas Carswell branded the decision as “outrageous” and said: “We were told there was going to be a consultation and that it would start imminently, and yet preceding that, it seems to be closure.

“I can’t see how that’s fair and it’s outrageous. It doesn’t allow the rational case for the maternity unit to be made if they have gone ahead and closed it before the consultation.

“The excuses given for the closure are exactly that, excuses not reasons.

“We constantly see attempts to close local services and move things to Colchester. I fought to stop the closure of the Peter Bruff ward so if needs be I will go into battle on this and lead from the frontline.”

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Concern is also mounting from Tendring District Council with leader Mick Page calling for an urgent meeting of the Tendring Health and Well-Being Board with Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs maternity services in north east Essex, to explain its actions and intentions.

“I want this to take place as soon as possible to look at the implications for the people of Tendring and what will be the long-term impact on services if this closure is other than temporary,” he said.

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The decision to close the coastal units, and birthing centre at Halstead Hospital, was taken on clinical advice by the board of directors at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust due to the low number of midwives at Colchester General Hospital in relation to the high number of births.

It means the midwife to births ratio at Colchester General Hospital has reduced from 1:39 compared to the 1:29 Department of Health recommendation.

A hospital trust spokesman said it would be “delighted” to attend a meeting of Tendring Health and Well-Being Board.

“The Trust has already explained publicly that the decision to close the maternity units at Clacton and Harwich temporarily for deliveries was taken with clinical advice by our board of directors. Antenatal and postnatal care are continuing at both units, seven days a week.

“Section 242 of the NHS Act 2006 makes it clear that a service cannot be closed permanently without a public consultation.

“The Trust has apologised to the women families who have been affected by this temporary change and can understand their disappointment.

“However the number of people affected is relatively small - there were 87 births at the Harwich unit in the first 11 months of 2013/14 and 162 at Clacton.”

A maternity service review is expected to begin before the end of March. The hospital will review the closure on June 12.

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