Health bosses have ‘broken promises’ amid uncertainty of birth centre’s future, claims MP

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Hemsworth and South Elmsall MP John Trickett has accused health bosses of “broken promises” amid uncertainty over the future of Pontefract Hospital’s birth centre.

Mr Trickett claims the Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust has misled the public, after it admitted that the midwifery-led unit may eventually be shut permanently after a review takes place.

READ:Future of Pontefract Hospital birth centre in doubt
The birth centre was closed for six weeks from the end of September so that staff could cover for sick colleagues at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

Although it will reopen on November 5, trust chief executive Martin Barkley said he could not give any guarantees over its long-term future.

The announcement prompted a furious reaction from Mr Trickett, who says he was led to believe that the birth centre was safe.

He said: “This flies in the face of guarantees which have been given in the past that there would be such a centre at Pontefract.

“Even as recently as two weeks ago the management of the trust were saying that the temporary closure would not become permanent. It is totally unacceptable that the management of the trust should mislead the public in this way.

 “I am fed up promises being made and then broken. The responsibility goes right to the top of this Conservative government who have continually cut back our health service for the last ten years.

 “If we want to stop this programme of cutting services from the south east of the district we have to stand up and be counted. The trust have said they will do a consultation process, and I will encourage everyone to submit to it.”

READ:Pontefract Hospital ‘not closing’, NHS bosses insist
Less than 200 babies are born at Pontefract Hospital every year, compared with nearly 6,000 at Pinderfields.

But there are concerns that people in the south east of the district may be isolated if the unit is closed.

South Kirkby and South Elmsall councillor Michelle Collins said: “For people living in this area Pinderfields is not easy to get to.

“Pontefract is our local hospital and we’ve campaigned tirelessly to keep services there, including the A&E.

“In my opinion Pinderfields is alread struggling with additional services. The NHS must be there for the people who need it.”

Speaking at a health scrutiny meeting on Thursday, trust chief executive Martin Barkley said: “We’re dealing with taxpayer’s money here and we have to maximise every pound people pay towards the NHS.

“I can’t give any long-term assurance over the future of the Pontefract midwifery-led unit.

“The staff are being grossly under-utilised.”

“More Pontefract women are choosing to have their babies at Wakefield, for pretty understandable reasons.

“All of these issues are under review at the moment.”

Asked about Mr Trickett’s comments, the trust said it had nothing to add.

READ:Trust forced to deny hospital closure fears
While pregnant women who have already arranged to have their babies at Pontefract will be unaffected, the trust says it will not take any more bookings from mums-to-be to avoid causing them uncertainty.

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper was equally critical, saying: “It’s outrageous and completely unfair on new mums that Mid Yorkshire Trust are proposing to close the birthing centre at Pontefract.

“All my children were born at Pontefract hospital and families should have the choice of local midwife led care.

“I’m sick to death of them telling us that services in our towns are not value for money. It’s just another excuse to cut services in our towns and put them all in the overstretched cities instead. And it’s not fair on local people.”