TRADE unionists and NHS campaigners are holding an emergency public meeting tonight (Tuesday, April 11) due to concerns over the future of the maternity unit at Bridgwater Hospital.

At last month's Bridgwater Town Council (BTC) meeting, following concerns from users constantly being sent to Musgrove and a visit to the Mary Stanley Suite at Bridgwater Hospital by mayor Alex Glassford and deputy leader Kath Pearce the council launched a 'Born in Bridgwater' campaign.

Leader of BTC Cllr Brian Smedley said: "We decided to launch this campaign to raise awareness of the options that the delivery suite presented so that people know they have the opportunity to have their children born in their town. A kind of ‘use it or lose it’ warning."

The Bridgwater Trades Union Council (TUC), who have organised tonight's emergency meeting, say they fear for the future of the maternity unit once NHS's Somerset's Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) comes into effect.

There are 44 STP plans being rolled out across the country by the Government aiming to save £5 billion in the NHS budget.

Dave Chapple, Bridgwater TUC secretary said: "Twenty years ago the people of Bridgwater fought a hard battle to keep an NHS maternity unit in the town. Will this battle have to be fought all over again?"

Glen Burrows of Bridgwater TUC said: "The STP needs to be fully prepared by the end of the year, at the moment there is not enough detail on where savings will be made.
"They have tried to cut the maternity unit before and we want to be prepared in case it happens again."

However Hayley Peters, director of patient care at Musgrove Park Hospital, said that the fear was unfounded.

“We are pleased to say that this alleged ‘threat’ to the Mary Stanley birthing unit at Bridgwater is simply not real," she said. 

“All our services come under review from time to time. The hospital Trust Board considered the maternity unit in November 2016 and agreed there was no reason to make any changes to the current service. 

“We are committed to offering women a choice when it comes to deciding where to have their baby. For mothers-to-be in the Bridgwater area, this means they can have a home birth where this is safe, go to the Mary Stanley unit, or come to Musgrove Park Hospital.” 

A spokesman for Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, which organises and buys services for Somerset, added: “We can confirm that there are no proposals to close the birthing unit at Bridgwater Community Hospital. 

“The Somerset Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) is available to read on hospital websites, Somerset CCG’s website and Somerset County Council’s website. 

“Somerset CCG can assure local people that planning for the STP will be incorporating the views of patients, carers and voluntary organisations. There will be full consultation on any significant proposals.” 

Backing the Born in Bridgwater campaign, mother of two Cllr Siobhan Wilson added: “I would say that I think it is a shame if no babies are being born in Bridgwater now, particularly since there is a lovely new hospital in Bridgwater and a maternity unit waiting there. 

"The new hospital is a valuable resource and I am sure many women, in the town and surrounding villages, would like to use it, rather than going to Taunton. 

"While it isn’t a ward with midwives on all the time if you book to give birth there then they open it for you when you’re in labour."

Bridgwater TUC is holding an emergency meeting for NHS workers, trades unionists, and all those who use and depend upon NHS services, on Tuesday, April 11 at the Railway Club on Wellington Road at 7.30pm.