Campaign to save Pontefract Maternity Centre draws support from hundreds

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Coooper started a petition to save the Friarwood Birth Centre at Pontefract Hospital, which is under review.
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Coooper started a petition to save the Friarwood Birth Centre at Pontefract Hospital, which is under review.

Hundreds of people have joined a campaign to save Pontefract Maternity Centre after Mid Yorkshire Trust admitted it was considering permanent closure.

The Friarwood Birth Centre reopened this week after it was closed for six weeks but question marks remain over its long-term future.

Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital

Pontefract General Infirmary / Pontefract Hospital

The centre was shut by the Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust, which runs the site, in late September because of staff sickness.

Midwives at Pontefract have since been covering for colleagues at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, where the staff shortage was.

Women who have already arranged to have their babies at Pontefract can do so, but the long-term future of the clinic is in doubt. Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper accused the trust of closing the unit “by stealth” after it stopped taking new bookings.

Parents, expectant mothers, grandparents and children signed petitions in Pontefract town centre and online in support of the centre.

Ms Cooper said: “The trust need to listen to local families and back down. Closing the unit to new bookings is the same as closing it by stealth.

“They’ve done no consultation on this. It’s an outrageous thing to do. Already they’ve been closing the unit on and off to drive the number of births down.

“How dare they just decide with no consultation to stop births in future – this is just designed to force Pontefract to close without anyone in the community having a say.” Trust bosses announced a review into its midwifery services last month, with the permanent closure of Friarwood a strong possibility.

The trust said figures show that fewer than 200 mums a year give birth at Pontefract and said midwives there are being “grossly under-utilised”.

As a result they say they are no longer booking any more future births at the hospital.

But councillors have expressed concerns that any decision to shut it for good will result in the whole of Pontefract Hospital being wound down and primed for closure itself.

The trust said it took the decision because it did not want to leave women “uncertain” about their choice of place to birth during the review.