Review delay keeps Chipping Norton Hospital's maternity unit shut

Oxford Mail: Hilary Biles at the unit Buy this photo Hilary Biles at the unit

HEALTH bosses were last night unable to say when pregnant women will be able to give birth at Chipping Norton’s maternity unit again.

The birth facilities at the Cotswold Maternity Unit was “temporarily” shut more than three months ago after concerns about working practices were raised by staff and mothers.

A review was then launched to look at why a high number of women from the area were choosing to have their births elsewhere, and the transfer rate to other hospitals.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust said in October that the review would take about three months but last night it said the document was still not finished.

The trust said the review’s recommendations would then need to be considered by its board in March before a decision is finally made.

Hilary Biles, Oxfordshire County Council member for Chipping Norton, said it was disgraceful the review had still not been completed.

She said: “How long does it take to do a review of staff management? It should not even take 12 weeks.

“There are mothers that are up in the air about where they are going to give birth, and that is unacceptable. It should be open now.”

Mrs Biles said the maternity unit had been a new and state-of-the-art facility when it was opened by Prime Minister David Cameron in May 2011.

She added that the public needed to know the reasons for the closure and has called for an independent inquiry into the suspension of births.

She said: “If it was a management issue, which is what they are saying, they are asking the same staff to work on this review that were involved in the management. “I don’t think that is right and it needs to be more transparent.”

Jane Hervé, head of midwifery for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have very nearly completed our evidence collection for the review and the report will then be written.

“I will give an interim report on the review to the February meeting of Oxfordshire County Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee.

“The report and recommendations following the review will be considered by the trust’s board in early March.”

She added: “We are committed to reopening the Cotswold Maternity Unit as soon as we are able to, but are not able to say yet exactly what date that will be.”

A petition launched last year claims two midwives were suspended from the maternity unit after they raised concerns about working practices and safety.

The petition calls for them to be reinstated. The trust will not confirm these claims.

Between April 2012 and the suspension of births in October, 33 babies were born at the maternity unit.

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