AN OXFORDSHIRE patients’ watchdog has launched a review into maternity services in the county.
It comes after the Oxford Mail revealed Wantage Community Hospital’s maternity beds, which have served thousands of women since the 1980s, could be permanently axed.
The midwifery-led unit (MLU), which delivered about 100 babies a year, was closed at the end of February due to building works, but subsequent staff shortages prevented the unit from reopening.
The Oxfordshire Local Involvement Network (LINk) will circulate questionnaires and speak to children’s centres and mother and baby groups to gather information about post-natal care.
LINk member Adrian Chant said: “Through previous engagement work LINk received a variety of comments relating to maternity services in Oxfordshire.
“We’re planning to work with Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) to look at issues, specifically around post-natal maternity services.
“We’re not able to say what they are because we don’t want to influence the review.
“We’re following up on the situation with Wantage Community Hospital and we’re aware it’s becoming a concern.”
While Wantage maternity beds are closed, women wishing to have babies at an MLU are directed to the Wallingford unit, or the Spires unit at the John Radcliffe.
There are also consultant-led maternity units at the Horton in Banbury and the JR women’s centre, and there is a midwifery-led unit in Chipping Norton.
Danielle Watton, 24, of St Mary’s, Wantage, gave birth to her first son, Charlie, at the JR when she was 18. But because of her age, she then spent three nights at the Wantage MLU for extra support before going home.
She said: “I was quite scared of going home because I had this new baby and I was quite young. “They showed me how to feed him and bathe him.”
County councillor for Wantage Jenny Hannaby, a member of the health scrutiny committee, said: “They cannot just close a service to the town. There must be some consultation, and I will be taking this further.”
All maternity units in the county are the responsibility of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUH).
The trust denied this was an attempt to close the hospital without consultation.
When asked if the trust could promise Wantage MLU would reopen, a spokesman for the OUH said: “We are not in a position to give any guarantees.”
To comment on the Oxfordshire LINk survey email link@ oxonrcc.org.uk, or call 01865 883488