A NEW mum has called on an NHS trust not to force pregnant women in north Oxfordshire to take long, risky journeys to get the healthcare they need.

Sophie Hammond tore a major blood vessel giving birth birth to daughter Clementine last September and was saved by teams at the Horton General Hospital.

Now the 30-year-old from Bodicote has demanded Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust not to let the Horton's maternity unit become 'midwife-led'.

Current proposals put forward by the trust would see no specialists based at the hospital, meaning anyone living in the north of the county experiencing pregnancy complications would have to go to Oxford, South Northamptonshire or even Warwick.

Mrs Hammond said: "It is unthinkable nonsense to downgrade services which surely need augmenting instead.

"The aftermath of my daughter's birth was a very traumatic and difficult time for us, but it was made more bearable by being looked after by a brilliant team."

After her birth Mrs Hammond lost two litres of blood in about five minutes and was rushed into the operating theatre "within seconds" by doctors.

She said: "A retired Horton nurse I used to know said colleagues referred to the ambulance journey from Banbury to the JR as 'the death run'.

"How can we consider ourselves a civilised society if we are taking backwards steps in the safe delivery of babies?"

In late July the trust confirmed it had been trying unsuccessfully since April and May to fill five vacant obstetric posts, and could have just three out of eight middle-grade doctors in obstetrics by the end of September. Last year about 1,500 babies were born at the Horton.

Its current contingency plan involves operating temporarily as a midwife-led unit, with 'high-risk' women from North Oxfordshire taken to the John Radcliffe to give birth.

But Mrs Hammond, a church buildings officer for the Diocese of Oxford, said: "Surely the most logical, low-impact solution would be to rotate staff between the JR and the Horton. The conclusion I have come to is that there is no reason the hospital couldn't be a fully-staffed, well-regarded training facility if the trust so wished it."

Earlier the month hundreds of people, including new and expectant Oxfordshire mothers and Victoria Prentis MP, gathered in front of the Horton to protest the plans.

Work has also begun at the John Radcliffe to prepare for the possibility of extra beds being needed at the Women's Centre.

Paul Brennan, director of clinical services at OUH, said the trust had been "working very hard" to attract new applicants and fill the roles.

He said: "The posts have an enhanced pay level above the national recommendations, along with financial assistance for VISA application, and provide the opportunity for doctors to develop their skills by undertaking Advanced Training Specialist Modules and spend time at the unit in Oxford.

"We believe we have got a good offer for doctors wants a role that offers some responsibility and also variety, and we are continuing to advertise."

Do you have a story to share on a birth experience or other treatment at the Horton General Hospital? Get in touch at hsomerville@nqo.com