L-R: Suzie Morris, Alison Hiles, Soma Ghosh, Corinne Marbrow.
On Monday, we joined mothers with babes in arms at a workshop trying to save rural Midwife Led Units (MLUs) in consultation with NHS providers. Currently, Bridgnorth, Oswestry and Ludlow remain closed.
Karen Higgins, running the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) with Commissioner Fiona Ellis, told a packed room in Rockspring Community Centre in Ludlow. “Leave the past behind, it’s done… let’s design the future!”
“We don’t want to leave the past behind,” said a mother. “We had a gold standard MLU in Ludlow – we want it back.”
It was pointed out that national guidelines by NICE recommend Midwife Led Units for women with low risks as cheaper, safer and better places to give birth.
“Let’s not think about NICE – that’s national, that’s not Shropshire,” said Fiona Ellis, who will be making recommendations on the future of MLUs to SaTH.
“But isn’t Shropshire included in national recommendations on what’s best for women and babies?” I asked.
“Yes…” Ms. Ellis replied. When I told her of my difficulty in planning to have a second child due to the removal of services, she shook her head, “Shropshire’s strong on choice.”
Really, so why don’t I know about it?
Corinne Marbrow with her twins
The Ludlow Unit offers excellent in-patient post-natal care. “It gives you confidence to give birth,” said Corrine Marbrow, teaching assistant and mother of twins, “Seeing other mums in the beds when you go in for ante-natal classes.” Other mums emphasised not wanting to travel too far, in labour, and the value of a local hub for support throughout pregnancy, birth and the early years.
Despite recent health cuts, closures are blamed on staff sickness. “Sickness is made worse by these conditions,” said a midwife. “You try working, under these circumstances!” She added that current recruitment ads only invite Band 5 nurses, while Band 6 and above are the best qualified to handle all births.
Babies crawled and played with toys and people’s car keys. Midwifery staff, mums, dads and concerned citizens planned how to save the situation. However, the public were allowed less than ten minutes to come up with solutions to different aspects of the crisis. “How about just having our MLUs back?” said Alison Hiles, mother of 3. “I know how a great MLU runs – I’ve had post-natal care and a home birth with Ludlow, been there, bought the T-shirt!”
The presentation by the CCG featured Telly Tubbyish ciphers and cheerful cartoons that curiously mismatched people’s concern and anger. “I felt over-directed,” said a woman working alongside midwives, “There wasn’t enough time to say everything.”
Ms. Higgins said they’d spoken to, “probably the right number of people,” but Labour members discovered that the review has not consulted any disabled mothers or fathers.
Karen Higgins and Fiona Ellis encouraged people to consider “Blue Sky thinking”. Mothers proposed an App to stay in close contact with their MLU. They were stunned when told that Ludlow MLU has no WIFI!
Bridgnorth Councillor, Julia Buckley, mother of 2, attended her local workshop
on 20th September at St. James' Hall. “No-one should have to risk their life, because of cuts to rural services,” she said. “Distance kills. Our rural birthing centres are recognised as national best practice”.
The next workshops are at Market Drayton (22nd, morning) Telford (25th, morning). Sign up or just show up to have your say.