BREAKING NEWS: Grantham Hospital to lose maternity unit in health shake-up

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Health bosses will announce plans today to scrap Grantham’s “Midwifery Led Birthing Unit”.

NHS Lincolnshire will launch a consultation today (November 21) which proposes to “relocate” the Grantham facility to another hospital which is supported by an Obstetric Unit such as Lincoln or Boston.

The “Shaping Health for Mid Kesteven” consultation has been created by the “Shaping Health for Mid Kesteven Board” made up of representatives from a variety of bodies. Members include GPs, Grantham Hospital Defence Committee, Grantham Hospital League of Friends, the district and county councils and various NHS bodies.

The consultation says four options have been considered, one of which was to keep the Midwifery Led Birthing Unit in its present state, but three of the options were “deemed to be unviable”.

As a result, people are being consultant on to what extent they support the proposal to close Grantham’s midwifery unit and transfer it elsewhere.

Allan Kitt is the Accountable Officer for South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group. He is responsible for buying health services for South Lincolnshire.

Mr Kitt said: “We needed there to be at least 170 births at Grantham Hospital to be financially viable but last year we had fewer than 100 births - that means the unit has fewer than two births a week.

“The midwives do a great job but women are clearly choosing to go elsewhere for their care.

“We are proposing to stop the option of births at Grantham Hospital.”

The population of Grantham is set to increase by 20,000 by 2026.

Currently 2,370 women a year attend Grantham Hospital for their antenatal and postnatal care but the vast majority opt to give birth at other hospitals where they can get:

- Direct access to obstetricians, anaesthetists and neonatologists,

- Access to other specialist services such as epidurals for pain relief,

- There is a specialist care baby unit if there are any problems.

None of which they can currently get at the Midwifery Led Birthing Unit at Grantham Hospital.

Many women do not have the option of giving birth at Grantham Hospital if they have any potential complicating issues such as diabetes or being overweight.

Expectant women are warned that if there are any problems during the birth at Grantham Hospital they will be put in an ambulance and blue-lighted to Lincoln - a journey of around 40 minutes.

As a result, the vast majority understandably opt to play it safe and give birth at other hospitals such as Lincoln, Nottingham, Peterborough and Boston.

But if there are potentially 2,370 women who would give birth in Grantham if the proper facilities were on offer and the town’s population is set to rise by 20,000 over the next 13 years, why can’t Grantham have an Obstetric Unit like Lincoln (3,897 births a year) and Boston (2,160 births a year)?

Dr David Baker is a GP at Vine Street Surgery in Grantham and a member of the South-West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group which has recommended closing Grantham’s Midwifery Led Birthing Unit.

Dr Baker said: “You couldn’t have it as a stand-alone unit, you would need a full pediatric unit and a full neonatal unit.

“Certainly, over the next 15 to 20 years, the numbers will not stand up.

“It’s just not feasible.”

Dr Baker’s view was echoed by fellow commissioning group member Clair Raybould.

Ms Raybould, who is Head of Business Improvement and Delivery for the commissioning group, said: “Even with the population growth you would not have sufficient numbers to have an Obstetric Unit.”

Thousands of consultation documents will be sent to Grantham in the coming days and weeks for people to have their say on the plans.

There will be a series of “public information events” put on in Grantham before the consultation closes in February.

The events will give people the chance to talk to those making the decisions including local GPs.

- Weds, Nov 28 - Council Chamber at SKDC offices in St Peter’s Hill between 9am and 1pm.

- Weds, Dec 5 - Grantham Hospital Outpatients Dept between 10am and 4pm.

- Sun, Jan 13 - Asda in Union Street between 10am and 2pm.

- Tues, Jan 22 - Grantham Hospital Outpatients Dept between 11am and 4pm.

- Tues, Feb 5 - Asda in Union Street between 1pm and 6pm.