RESIDENTS of a town have turned out in force to call for the reinstatement of deliveries at a maternity unit.
Scores of people from Berwick attended a public meeting called as part of a consultation on the future of maternity services in the town.
It follows the temporary suspension of births at the unit.
The service at Berwick Infirmary was stopped by bosses Northumbria Healthcare Northumbria NHS Trust at the beginning of August last year.
The trust cited a fall in number of births, to just 13 in 2011/12, and said midwives were not getting the opportunities they needed to practise birthing skills.
Bosses also cited a number of “safety incidents” at the unit.
The move sparked anger among residents, with thousands signing petitions, forming Facebook and action groups and attending a rally.
Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith raised concerns in Parliament and two expectant mothers announced they were planning legal action to have deliveries reinstated.
Following a review, the trust recommended two options for the future of the service.
They were reinstatement of deliveries with an increased number of midwives on a rota basis, or creating a 24/7 on-call system for delivery of care during labour either at home or at a birthing room in Berwick, with in-patient post-natal care for up to six hours.
Both the trust and the commissioners believe the on-call system is the most viable and that a reinstatement of deliveries is not achievable.
Nevertheless, North East health commissioners NHS North of Tyne agreed to consult on both options.
Yesterday’s meeting at the town’s Maltings theatre was attended by mothers, campaigners, councillors and health professionals, as well as representatives from the trust, North of Tyne and the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group.
There were repeated calls for the reinstatement of deliveries, with campaigner Michael Stewart saying: “You closed Berwick maternity unit because you are more worried about your league tables.
“You have moved the goalposts. All this about safe births and unsafe births is all rubbish.”
The meeting also heard calls for a third option to be considered, possibly involving support for Berwick midwives from consultants, with town vicar Matthew Knox calling for “creative thinking”.
But the Trust and North of Tyne representatives had reiterated the reasons for suspending deliveries.
Mike Guy, the latter’s medical director, said: “Whatever is delivered will be safe. That is the first consideration.”