Final decision on Pontefract Hospital's Friarwood Birth Centre moves closer

Pontefract Hospital
Pontefract Hospital

A final decision on the future of Pontefract Hospital's maternity unit is likely to be confirmed within the next few weeks.

Local NHS bosses have outlined plans to have the Friarwood Birth Centre open as an on-demand service only, but need the move to be signed off by a regional group of medical experts first.

Under the new proposals, antenatal care will delivered at Pontefract for all women who choose to give birth there.

Under the new proposals, antenatal care will delivered at Pontefract for all women who choose to give birth there.

Confirmation of Friarwood's future was expected around October, but health executives are pushing for a decision to be made in September, in a bid to end the uncertainty surrounding the unit.

Representatives from Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust will attend a scrutiny meeting next Thursday, where the issue will be discussed.

A report going before the committee says: "Work is currently underway with the Yorkshire and Humber Clinical Senate to review the (proposals) to provide assurance that it can be safely sustained as a long-term solution.

"The trust and the CCG are working to bring forward a decision on a permanent solution to September 2019 so that they can reassure people that the unit will stay open."

The long-term fate of Friarwood was thrown into doubt last year when the trust mooted closing the unit down altogether at the end of last year.

That idea was later abandoned, however, following opposition from patients, local councillors and MP Yvette Cooper.

But with the NHS struggling to cope with a nationwide shortage of midwives, the trust says it has been forced to explore alternative options to keeping Friarwood open 24/7.

Under the new proposals however, a so-called family hub would be set up at Pontefract Hospital, where mums-to-be could get all their antenatal care there before they give birth.

The report added: "Through this arrangement, midwives who work in the community and have got to know the women over several months would attend the birth centre at Pontefract when the woman goes into labour to deliver her baby there.

"This model of service is safely operated at many units around the country and responds to two key issues that came out in the feedback received during the recent public engagement: people want there to be enough staff to offer a safe service wherever they choose to have their baby, and also want to have the choice of delivering their baby in a local midwife led unit if it is safe for them to do so."

Local Democracy Reporting Service