Fear for future of Trowbridge maternity unit as it shuts for summer

Health bosses say there are no plans to shut Trowbridge’s maternity unit, despite it closing for the summer because of staff shortages.

But campaigners fear the ten-week closure could threaten its future.

From July 15, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees seven maternity units including Trowbridge, will be sending the centre’s midwives to cover at other hospitals.

All the expectant mothers due to give birth at the unit at Trowbridge Community Hospital have been told they will have their babies at Chippenham Birthing Unit from July 15 to September 29.

“Over recent months we’ve experienced high levels of long term sickness absence and some vacancies in our service, particularly at Royal United Hospital, Bath’s Princess Anne Wing,” said Christina Rattigan, the trust’s head of midwifery.

“The decision is only a temporary one and has not been taken lightly. We appreciate that women who have planned to give birth at Trowbridge over the summer will now be cared for elsewhere and apologise for any inconvenience.”

The decision is likely to affect around 70 pregnant women.

During the closure only postnatal and antenatal care will be provided at the Trowbridge unit.

There are fears that the temporary measure may become permanent.

Wiltshire and Trowbridge town councillor Jeff Osborn said: “There was no public consultation for this and again Trowbridge is getting a raw deal.

“We have been let down so many times in the past, so you are automatically are suspicious of what the future holds as in my experience temporary can often become permanent.”

New mum Alison Bale, 24, from Bradford on Avon, who gave birth to her baby Arthur at the centre on June 24, said she had been relieved she could use the service rather than go to Bath.

She said: “Travelling would be an issue but my biggest concern would be how big the unit at Bath is and the care provided wouldn’t be as personal as at Trowbridge.

“We are really pleased we used it and the care from the midwives was amazing. If there was a threat to close it long-term we’d sign a petition.”

The GWH Trust insists that women will be able to give birth again at the Trowbridge centre from September 29. By then nine new midwives are expected to be employed by the trust, working at hospitals across the region.

In January, the trust’s maternity units at the RUH and the Great Western Hospital, Swindon were slammed by the Care Quality Commission for inadequate staff levels, while Trowbridge Birthing Centre once again had a successful inspection.

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