CAMPAIGNERS trying to maintain the right for mums to give birth at the Trowbridge Maternity Unit have accused NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group of ignoring the results of its own consultation.

They say Wiltshire CCG promised to respect the results of the Maternity Transformation consultation which showed clearly that residents still wanted to give birth at the Freestanding Maternity Units at Trowbridge and Paulton.

Members of the newly-merged Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioners Governing Bodies meet on Thursday to make a final decision on the future of maternity services across the three areas.

Their decision will be based on an extensive 15-week consultation process between November 12 2018 and February 24 2019 which resulted in a far bigger response than expected.

Up to 1,855 residents responded to the consultation. Of these, 1,200 people (62 per cent) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the closure of the Trowbridge and Paulton birthing units.

Campaigner Andy Milroy, from Trowbridge, said: "Now they are attempting to override this decisive public vote using some anonymous hand-picked group which actually contains people from Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning.

“This is a public relations disaster for BSW CCG. It confirms the worst fears of Wiltshire residents that the new body will disregard the needs of Wiltshire and boost those of Bath and Swindon. The recommendations include a new Birthing Unit for the RUH in Bath.

"The CCG are now desperately trying to move the goalposts. They are seeking to override their own consultation process by involving an “independent”, anonymous handpicked bunch of experts.

"The 'independent' claim is seriously compromised by the fact one-third of the 'experts' have links with Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning. The group’s anonymity is also very troubling - how real is this bunch of experts?"

A final decision on the future of the units will be made at a BSW CCG meeting at Dorothy House Hospice Care's Winsley head offices on Thursday.

The BSW Governing Bodies are being urged to approve the closure of Trowbridge and Paulton FMUs and the setting up of two new 'Alongside Maternity Units' at the RUH in Bath and the Salisbury District Hospital, in addition to the one at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon.

Under the proposals, four FMUs at Frome, Paulton, Chippenham and Trowbridge would stay open but only provide ante-natal and post-natal services.

Four community post-natal beds at Chippenham and five at Paulton would be replaced by support closer to or in women's homes.

Mr Milroy added: "It's a stitch up. It's not a public meeting. It is a meeting in public where no comments can be made and no questions asked. It's not how a health service should be run.

"The recommendations are exactly those decisively rejected by the consultation. There is a massive democratic deficit here!

“Recently, the Wiltshire CCG, elected by Wiltshire GPs, not the people of Wiltshire, became submerged in a larger group, dominated by Bath and Swindon. The first act of this new BSW CCG is to reduced health care in Wiltshire.”

Trowbridge Mayor Cllr David Cavill said: “Not just Trowbridge Birthing Unit will close, it becomes entirely possible that all maternity services in the town are threatened, including ante-natal and post-natal.

"Moreover maternity beds in the last remaining stand-alone birthing unit in Wiltshire, in Chippenham, are to be slashed too.”

Lucy Baker, Acting Director for Maternity Services at Wiltshire CCG and Lead Director for the project, said: “Our proposal is the result of feedback gained from listening to over 2,000 women and families, staff, midwives, obstetricians and others with an interest in maternity services to look at ways we can improve the services we provide to mothers and families across the region. To do that, we need to make some changes to how we currently do things.”

She added: “Our proposal would allow us to provide more choice for more women across our area about where and how they are supported before, during and after the birth of their baby, and allows us to make more efficient use of our resources and workforce so we can further improve our antenatal and post-natal and birthing services.

"We also want to ensure we are delivering the services that can meet the changing needs of our local women and families both now and in the future.

“Despite the financial pressures facing the NHS locally and nationally, we are not planning to reduce how much we spend on maternity services, nor are we proposing to reduce the amount of staff we have or to close any buildings.”

She said the BSW proposal addresses the issues posed by changes to the population. The average age of a woman giving birth in the UK is now 35 and more and more women are experiencing high risk pregnancies - for example, because of high blood pressure,

obesity or diabetes - which means they need to be supported in a hospital setting with an expert medical team available.

The combination of these factors means there is vastly increased pressure on services at the Obstetric Units at the RUH, the Great Western Hospital and at Salisbury District Hospital.

In addition, many women with a low risk pregnancy are choosing to have their babies in an Obstetric Unit because they are worried about having to move by ambulance to another site during or after their labour if they need the help of a doctor.

The BSW said that women need a safe, convenient alternative so staff at the three obstetric units at Bath, Salisbury and Swindon hospitals can focus on mothers who really need their care.

Sarah Merritt, the RUH's Head of Nursing and Midwifery, said: “Some of the changes we are proposing are because, particularly at the RUH, certain services are under-used and we are often staffing empty buildings and beds.

"85 per cent of women give birth in one of the three Obstetric Units with fewer than six per cent giving birth across our four FMUs in Chippenham, Trowbridge, Paulton and Frome.

“We believe we have the right number and mix of staff but they’re not based in the right locations to ensure efficient use of our resources and provide women with the services they need.

“In our FMUs - particularly at night - staff are covering areas even when there are no or very few births. On average only one baby is delivered every two or three days in each of these units but they need to be staffed to support births 24 hours a day seven days a week.”

The plans have been developed to ensure services are efficient and sustainable to support future population growth, changes in housing policy, and the repatriation of military personnel to South Wiltshire from April 2019.