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#Barnstaplebaby highlights plea to save services from controversial axing

Controversial plans to axe maternity services in North Devon have led mothers to protest on social media.

They're using the hashtag #Barnstaplebaby to share photos of children and stories of traumatic births.

The campaign hopes to show how much the under threat maternity unit at North Devon District Hospital is used, and needed.

No proposals have yet been released but a leaked document suggests sweeping changes - which include only having maternity units in Plymouth and Exeter.

Parents like Jo Backhouse from Lynmouth are urging NHS bosses not to close the District's maternity unit as she believes her daughter would have died if they'd been forced to travel to Exeter.

More than 17,000 people have signed a petition, and campaign group Save Our Hospital Services are fighting against proposed cuts to maternity, paediatrics and acute care in North Devon including the closure of more than 600 hospital beds across the county.

It's also thought that maternity will be under threat in South Devon when the full Transformation Plan is released for consultation later this Autumn.

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Campaigners say the proposed changes will effect everyone in Devon regardless of where they live because if services are cut in North and South Devon and transferred to Plymouth's Derriford Hospital or the Royal Devon and Exeter then those centralised services will be under pressure more so than ever before.

The leaked document is called the Sustainability and Transformation Plan and had only been released to the medics and administrators as a solution to a projected half billion pound NHS deficit in Devon by 2021.

The North Devon NHS Trust says a final decision is still along way off:

We are very grateful for the continued support from the community, both for NDHT’s maternity unit and for our Special Care Baby Unit fundraising appeal.

We understand that the maternity unit has played a very important role in many people’s lives and that the local community cares for it deeply.

We know that the publication of the draft STP plan has caused a great deal of anxiety in the local community and I am sorry that we cannot say more at this time to put people’s minds at rest.

The process for determining the ultimate configuration of maternity and paediatric services has not started and there needs to be extensive engagement to come to the options prior to any consultation and final decision, and this will take time.

What we do know is that there will always be babies being born in North Devon and therefore we will always need to provide the appropriate maternity services for babies and their mothers.

– Rob Sainsbury, Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

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