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Bodies could have been buried in wrong graves in Berwick

An investigation has found bodies could have been buried in the wrong graves at two cemeteries in Berwick.

The independent investigation found that records for a number of burials had been incorrectly completed at Berwick North Road and Tweedmouth cemeteries, and around 30 families may be affected.

It has been discovered that over a number of years prior to 2009, records have not always been well kept, and there had been little supervision of procedures at the cemeteries.

Some important information is missing from the records for the cemeteries and some have not been kept correctly.

The errors could also mean that that the wrong memorial is on the grave, that the deeds have been issued incorrectly or that an unregistered burial has taken place.

A dedicated helpline has been set up for families who have any concerns on 08444 632330 (or 0203 4170270 for anyone outside the UK).

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Berwick's maternity services still uncertain

Hundreds protested when services were initially suspended
Hundreds protested when services were initially suspended Credit: ITV

The future of Berwick's Maternity unit is still uncertain following a three month safety review.

Hundreds of people protested against the temporary suspension of births at the unit in August following a large fall in the number of mothers using it.

The nearest hospital is at least forty miles away.

Birth and post natal services will remain closed while Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust considers two recommendations - either to continue the regular operation with extra mid-wives, or to operate a model used in other rural areas.

This model relies more heavily on home births and a community mid wife system.

Report released after suspension of Berwick services

Berwick Maternity Unit
Berwick Maternity Unit Credit: ITV News

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust have released the findings of its safety review and put forward two options for the future of maternity services at Berwick.

Some of the services at Berwick Maternity Unit were suspended in August after two serious incidents highlighted concerns over safe practice, as a result of the low number of births taking place in the unit - only thirteen from 2011 - 2012 - the lowest number in England of any comparable unit.

The suspension of services caused protest in the local community.

The Trust have put forward two options for the future of the unit - that either additional midwives should be employed despite the low birth rates, or that an on-call system should be put in place similar to that of other rural areas.

Services to remain suspended whilst Berwick's future is decided

Maternity services at Berwick Hospital are up for discussion again after its NHS Trust released its recommendations for the future of the unit.

Some services will remain suspended until Northumbria Healthcare feel that it is safe enough for them to go ahead, but the unit will remain open to all antenatal, postnatal and consultant-led clinics for the meantime.

“There are no other rural parts of England with such a low number of births as Berwick and this is also something which we cannot ignore. These low birth numbers are not just a result of changing national guidance, which we must adhere to, but also the choices Berwick women are making about their maternity care – the majority of low risk women who could have chosen Berwick to deliver their baby, chose a consultant-led unit instead."

– Janice McNichol, Head of Midwifery at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

“As a Trust, we are fully committed to providing a safe, round the clock, maternity service for the people of Berwick and hope this is clear from the two options for a future safe service which we have put forward to our commissioners NHS North of Tyne for consideration."

– Janice McNichol, Head of Midwifery at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

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Berwick maternity survey launched

Mothers in Berwick are being given the opportunity to give their opinion on maternity services in Berwick.

An independent survey launches today, researchers will speak to both mothers and future mothers. They will ask around 200 local women what they think of the services.

"In Berwick and the surrounding area many women are choosing to have their babies at Wansbeck, Newcastle or Borders and we need to understand what was important to them when they made these decisions. We also want to hear from local women about what other care is important to them at the different stages of pregnancy, including after the baby is born."

– Dr Mike Guy, NHS North of Tyne

It follows the temporary closure for births and post natal inpatient care at Berwick Maternity Unit, because of safety concerns, in August. At the time, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and NHS North of Tyne reassured the public they would have an opportunity to speak up.

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