THE importance of patient safety explains, and justifies to a lesser extent, the decision of health chiefs to close Pontefract’s midwife-led maternity unit for at least 11 months.
Citing staff shortages, the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust says the welfare needs of expectant mothers, and their newborn babies, can be met at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
But this does not excuse the abruptness of the decision – Friarwood Birth Centre will be ‘mothballed’ on November 8 and this will cause consternation to many mothers-to-be.
And while health services have become more centralised – 5,700 women give birth each year at Pinderfields compared to 200 at Pontefract – community provision is integral to the NHS.
Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the Friarwood facility will reopen on September 30 next year – Yorkshire’s NHS trusts are not alone in struggling to recruit sufficient nurses, doctors and also midwifes to meet the needs of their patients.
This also pertains to the General Election, which will now be staged on December 12, as the main parties prepare to reveal their headline commitments to voters.
For, while Boris Johnson appears more confident on health policy than his predecessors as Tory leader as he announces various hospital building and rebuilding plans, he needs to remember that they also require staff and the NHS has struggled for many years to train, recruit and retain sufficient medics to keep up with demand. As such, the PM – and his rivals – are even more duty-bound, in light of the Pontefract announcement, to explain how they will staff the NHS.