A Chorley woman has launched her own campaign to save the town’s struggling maternity unit.
And, with nine children of her own and another on the way – Melanie Webster is certainly well-placed to lead the fight back.
The 37-year-old said she was inspired after reading the Guardian’s story about Alison Clewlow, who was forced to give birth at Chorley A&E after cutbacks at the maternity unit.
Now, the pregnant mum-of-nine, who lives in The Brookes, off Eaves Lane, has started her own online campaign and has even written to the Prime Minister to ask for his support.
She said: “I was in the supermarket shopping when I saw the story in the Guardian and I was completely stunned.
“It knocked the wind out of me as I have always had such incredible care at the maternity unit and I can’t believe that the services are being cut back.
“I haven’t been able to give birth at Chorley myself because of their strict criteria and problems I had with my first pregnancy, but I have always been transferred there for my post-natal care.
“On every single visit, the midwives have been absolutely brilliant and were pivotal in helping me to breast-feed and bond with my baby. I can’t imagine how first-time mums are coping without the care and the fact that they can be discharged after only six hours seems dangerous.”
The Guardian first revealed measures to withdraw staff and cut post natal care in August after an insider blew the whistle. However, the move to address staffing levels was expected to be reviewed after three months.
Now, shocking new figures obtained by the Guardian show that just 126 babies have been born since April 2010, compared to 248 in 2009/10 and 301 in 2008/9.
“They are making it so difficult to give birth at Chorley that pregnant women feel deterred,” Melanie added.
“There are no midwives based at the hospital permanently so you have to call when you are in labour and give them time to get there and set-up. Then, because there is no post-natal care, they will either have to leave just six hours after giving birth or be transferred to Preston so it seems pointless.
“However, the less babies that are born at Chorley – the more chance there is, that it will be closed forever and that can’t be allowed to happen. I think if we shout loud enough then the hospital bosses will have to listen.”
Melanie, who has set up a Facebook page called ‘Save Chorley Maternity Unit’ which more than 300 people have already supported, claims she may have to book into a hotel when she gives birth in six months time.
She added: “The first few days after having a baby are so important and with a hectic home life, women need the post natal care to be able to rest and bond with their newborn.
“That is why Chorley Maternity Unit was so perfect and why so many women have already spoken out. I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received and really hope we can come together and make a difference.”
Rhona Hartley, head of Midwifery and Nursing at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We fully respect the rights of members of the community to express their views on local services and always welcome feedback.
“We remain committed to providing women with a full range of maternity services including midwifery-led care where it is appropriate and safe to do so.
“We will be undertaking detailed analysis of the recent review of maternity services to ensure we continue to provide the best possible care for women throughout pregnancy and birth.
“The trust’s current ante-natal care guideline mirrors the National Institute of Clinical Excellence guideline with regard to criteria for booking under the care of a midwife.
“We support a wide range of birthing options for women, and are pleased to be in a position to say that almost all women who responded to our recent evaluation confirmed that they were offered a choice of birth options, including delivery at Chorley Birth Centre where this was appropriate.
“The audit demonstrates that expectant mums consider a range of factors when choosing a birth option, such as proximity to home, pain relief availability, access to specialists such as paediatricians, and the general birth experience they want.
“We have been in contact with Melanie and discussed a range of concerns with her.”