PARENTS and mums-to-be have spoken out against controversial plans to downgrade maternity services at Stafford Hospital, which would see the maternity unit losing its obstetrics consultants in January.
The switch is being fought by Support Stafford Hospital campaigners, who claim it spells the beginning of the end for maternity services in the town, because all births with potential complications would go to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire. And they claim that ambulance transfers of women in labour between the two hospitals would put lives at risk.
Families travelled from throughout Stafford Hospital’s catchment area to the protest camp in its grounds today to give their support to the Support Stafford Hospital campaign.
Rugeley couple Katie and Dean Rogers, both aged 23, said they had “no idea” where their third child, due on January 19, would be born because it was unclear when services would switch to UHNS.
The couple, who have two sons, Kyle, two, and Callum, three, said they were very worried by the change.
“I think it’s disgusting,” Mrs Rogers said. “My two sons were born in Stafford, and all my friends and relations have had their babies here. The care at Stafford is great and the staff are lovely, and travelling all the way from Rugeley to Stoke would be a real problem.”
Christopher Watt, 35, from Wildwood, said he and his wife Ceri, 31, were expecting their second child in December.
“We are hoping that the birth will still be in Stafford, unless things change again suddenly,” he said.
“”The first birth, of our daughter Amalie, who is now three, wasn’t straightforward and it is awful to think of being faced with an ambulance journey in the throes of labour.
“Living in Stafford, I feel we need our local hospital and what is happening here represents a slippery slope for the NHS in general. I’m afraid we are seeing the start of the destruction of the health service.”
James Cantrell, assistant to Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy, said he was also concerned, as a parent, about the plans.
“The birth of my daughter Beatrix went from being a midwife-led birth to a consultant-led birth in the space of about 30 seconds,” he said. “That is why I feel very strongly about keeping a full maternity service in Stafford.”
And Dania Dean, 34, from Burton Manor, commented: “All three of my children were born in Stafford, and they were all very quick births. There would have been no chance of getting to North Staffordshire.”
And she added: “One of my friends, who is a midwife here, found out about the changes from Facebook, not from the hospital. All their talk about transparency is rubbish.”
Local residents also visited the camp to express their support for wider hospital services, from paediatrics to critical care.
Alison Smith, 40, of Sandon Road, arrived at the camp with daughters Emma, 8, and Katie 10, after taking Katie for her regular check-up with a diabetic nurse.
“I am gutted about what is happening to the hospital,” Mrs Smith said. “Having a diabetic daughter, I rely on the hospital, and their care for her is magnificent. I don’t want to have to travel to Stoke with her.
“Both my children were born here and I can’t fault the staff or their care. I feel passionately that these services shouldn’t go.”
And Diana Robinson, 78, from Rugeley, said her life and that of her 77-year-old husband John had been saved by Stafford Hospital.
“My husband was rushed into hospital six years ago, and we thought he wouldn’t make it, but the critical care unit worked wonders, and he is fully fit again now.” Mrs Robinson said.
“Then when I was diagnosed with a rare kidney cancer they did a wonderful job and treated me so rapidly. The care we both had was wonderful.”
Her daughter Claudine Fencott, 49, added: “There is big housing growth in Rugeley as well as Stafford and it is so wrong to be reducing hospital services.
“It is going to be so difficult for Rugeley people to get to Stoke, and for relatives to visit, and getting to Wolverhampton’s hospital from Rugeley is a nightmare.”