'March with midwives': Hundreds protest over 'poor state' of maternity services in Stroud

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More than a thousand campaigners took to the streets of Stroud to protest over maternity care provision.

While mothers are still able to give birth in the unit, managers have asked those needing more than twelve hours of post-natal care to go to Gloucester.

Rally organiser Claire Rudge said: "Postnatal care has been closed for over 50 days now, so the Stroud Unit is only open for labour and the detrimental effect that that's having on women and babies across the community is huge."

The strikes coincided with a national day of action (November 20) by midwives complaining about pay and conditions.

Midwife Eleanor Smith said: "Lots of midwives deal with trauma on a daily basis and there isn't a proper place for that to be processed.

"Often many mistakes are made and rather than looking at systems, we look at individual midwives and the mistakes that they've made, in the end, that causes midwives to leave because they just can't take anymore".

Siobhan Baillie, Stroud's Conservative MP, was heckled during her speech at the rally. A new mother herself, she said the issue was about more than money.

She said: "You will have seen with my voting record I am not shy at challenging the Government when it's when necessary.

"It's an emotional issue when it's about babies and parents. But what we did hear from the midwives that spoke before me is this isn't just about funding, this is culture.

"The government is on the hook, the NHS trusts are on the hook, the NHS is on the hook to make changes."

The chief executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “There are no plans to close Stroud Maternity Unit. I wanted to reiterate our long-term commitment to the future of services in Stroud.

"Despite making significant progress over the summer in recruiting new midwives, with 14 new starters (in October) and a range of targeted initiatives from our dedicated midwifery recruitment team, staffing remains very challenging due to a combination of COVID-19-related sickness, other sickness absence and an ongoing national shortage of midwives.

"This means that we need to deploy our midwives to where they can provide safe, one-to-one care during their labour and birth.

Eleanor Smith Credit: ELEANOR_ITVNEWS_20112022

"Our senior management team in maternity, all of whom have many years of experience caring for women and families, sometimes have to make difficult decisions to redeploy our dedicated midwives to ensure that everyone, no matter where they choose to have their baby, continues to receive one-to-one care during their labour and birth."

Other maternity units are temporarily closed because of a lack of midwives or sickness. This includes the unit at Cossham Memorial Hospital in Bristol.

Another protest was held in the city's College Green, organised by trainee midwife Abbie Sanderson.

She said: "In the last year, since the last protest, we've lost another 600 midwives. To put that in context, a fully staffed delivery suite here in Bristol has ten midwives. So we've essentially lost 60 delivery suites in the UK."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We value the hard work of midwives and are committed to supporting them, including by investing £127 million to NHS maternity services to boost the workforce and improve neonatal care. "

"This is on top of £95 million invested into establishing 1,200 new midwife roles and 100 consultant obstetricians, ensuring we have the staff in place to deliver high-quality, safe care, with £26.5m targeted at improving multi-disciplinary training.

"We gave over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, on top of a 3% pay increase last year, increasing pay by £1,000 on average despite a public sector pay freeze.”