Harwich Town Council

01255 507211

9.30am – 1pm Monday, Wednesday & Friday

Full Council Minutes 11th October 2013

held at
Long Meadows Community Centre, Long Meadows, Dovercourt
on Friday 11th October 2013 at 12.00pm

Present: Councillors Calver , Fowler, Flavell,
I Henderson, King, Morrison, C Powell, and Todd
In the Chair: Councillor McLeod
Clerk: Mrs Lucy Ballard
Also present: 8 members of the public, 1 member of the press,
Cllrs Brown, Day, J Henderson, Nicholson, F Powell, J Thurlow and H Thompson
A member of the public asked why the Maternity Unit is closing. The MP said presently it isn’t, it’s going to consultation in March 2014 to decide on the appropriate option for its future. He commented that demand for Harwich (HRW) is low and there is a need for making better use of staff, by redistributing to busier areas. He also commented that any woman with a low risk pregnancy should have the choice to deliver in HRW if they choose.
There were public concerns that fast-progressing labours would rule out travelling to Colchester. The MP agreed there was a definite need to 24/7 staffing in HRW.
Another member of the public mentioned that of 248 births in the CO12 area in 2012, only 104 were in HRW and felt this was due to the unscheduled closures when staff are redirected to Colchester. He also commented on the bus services consultation which could see a reduction in the number of routes, making it harder for visitors to reach hospitals out of town. The MP stated that some mother with low risk pregnancies are still choosing to give birth in Colchester and therefore there was clearly a need to better communicate the benefits of labouring at HRW. He also said that perhaps the Hospital Hopper service needed extending to alleviate the accessibility issues caused by a reduced bus service, and sick cover provisions needed reviewing.
Cllr I Henderson briefed the MP on the current situation and the outcome of the previous meeting with representatives from the Clinical Commissioning Group. He emphasised the concerns of HTC in relation to the proposed consultation and the statistics/data that had been used to inform it. Information received suggested the numbers of births/visits recorded for HRW had only been taken from the CO12 postcode and not the wider area, which is also served by the HRW maternity unit. In reality the numbers were much higher and supported the need for the unit to remain in open 24/7 rather than just as a birthing centre. In particular the statistics highlighted that in 2012 there were 5000 face-to-face visits from expectant mothers at HRW and in 2013 there had already been 500 registered expectant mothers with 50 newly registered pregnancies each month, and approx. 450 ante/post natal appts. per month. Cllr Henderson continued to stress that the proposed consultation doesn’t take into consideration staff concerns, the different needs of each expectant/new mother, or their choices for aftercare.
Bernard Jenkin MP suggested that more needs to be communicated about the facilities that HRW has to offer and that running at capacity it could easily handle in excess of 1000 births each year and those lower risk mothers should be encouraged to come to HRW. He felt that suggestions for the future of the unit should be realistic and its doubtful keeping the status quo would be possible.
Cllr Calver commented on the fact that all statements imply that the consultation is not about cost cutting, which was also a concern of Cllr Powell’s. The MP said that everyone has to be realistic as times are hard financially at present. Cllr Calver said that both HTC and TDC were unanimous that all existing maternity services in HRW and Clacton should be protected, and this was supported by the MP. He agreed to feedback to the CCG/CHUFT the concerns of HTC and the public and that there’s little faith in the impending consultation. He further hoped to meet with expectant mothers to gauge their needs and obtain a proper survey of opinion to demonstrate what mother’s really want from the services as there appears to be no evidence at present.   He also agreed to Cllr Henderson’s request to meet again with the HRW maternity staff to hear their thoughts, opinions and fears, and suggested that Cllr Henderson attend that meeting.

The Chairman closed the meeting at 12.55pm.