Fears Dewsbury birth centre could close permanently due to staff shortages

Concerns have been raised that the Brontë Birth Centre in Dewsbury could close its doors permanently due to staff shortages, forcing mums-to-be to travel 45 minutes to the nearest hospital.

By Jessica Barton
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 6:00 am
Dewsbury and District Hospital, Halifax Road.
Dewsbury and District Hospital, Halifax Road.

The Brontë Birth Centre in Dewsbury was opened in 2016 by the family of the late Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, and has provided a holistic, family-centred and professional maternity care for the last six years.

During the past year, midwives and midwifery support workers have been moved from the Brontë Birth Centre to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, which has caused frequent closures and staff shortages.

Following a discussion with residents in Kirklees, a campaign group has been set up to save the Brontë Birth Centre from closing its doors permanently.

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A spokesperson for the campaign group said: “We have been made aware that the staff are having a very difficult time trying to encourage the senior management to keep the birth centre open.

“The overall impact has a significant effect not only on pregnant women but their family also.

“Many women are unaware of the closures at Brontë Birth Centre and at certain times women have arrived to find the doors locked and appointments changed, cancelled or rearranged due to the closures.

“Midwives and midwife support workers have discussed with the management ways in which they feel working patterns could achieve the best outcomes for women but this has been rejected and discounted.

“Unfortunately, this has led to a rise in staff leaving, with approximately 30 per cent of highly experienced staff leaving Mid Yorkshire Hospitals to take positions at other local NHS maternity trusts.

“Before it's too late and a permanent closure happens stopping women and their families from using the birth centre, please support our local needs.”

Within Kirklees there are no other standalone birth centres or birthing units for women, should the Brontë Birth Centre close.

Huddersfield Birth Centre closed in 2020, and in 2019 the Pontefract Birth Centre closed due to staff shortages as well.

This means that Kirklees families will have an approximately 45-minute drive to their nearest birthing unit should the Brontë Birth Centre be closed - for a woman in labour this is a considerable length of time to travel.

David Melia, director of nursing and quality at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS trust, said: “Our priority is to ensure that we provide the highest level of care in a safe and welcoming environment for women and their families.

“This means that we assess the safety of service provision on a frequent basis, and where we struggle to provide safe staffing levels - due to vacancy levels or absence – it is necessary to temporarily close the centre.

“Unfortunately, this will result in some women not being able to have their baby at the Bronte Birth Centre as they had originally chosen to.

“In this situation we will always talk through the other options available, which include the birth centre at Pinderfields Hospital, a home birth or, where appropriate, the obstetric led unit at Pinderfields Hospital.

“The most important thing for us at the trust is that we are able to continue to offer a safe maternity service with a range of birthing options for all our women and we would welcome a conversation with anyone who wishes to discuss their experiences with us.”