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Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010
Campaign for maternity services
By Hannah Ratcliffe
BBC Kent

Maidstone Hospital
Maidstone's maternity unit is planned to be downgraded

The decision to move full maternity services from Maidstone hospital to the new Pembury hospital is to be looked at by an Independent Review Panel.

Maternity services at Maidstone Hospital are set to be downgraded from a consultant-led to a midwife-led unit.

Consultants for expecting mothers in Maidstone will be based at the new Pembury Hospital from 2011.

The Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham has ordered the panel of experts to produce a report by 7 May.

The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said "we will be working closely with the panel over the next few weeks and months to explain the proposals and provide any information that the panel wants.

We remain fully convinced that the proposals are in the best interests of all our patients."

The Trust has said previously "all women giving birth at Maidstone when it is a midwife-led unit will have been assessed as at very low risk of complications.

If anything did go wrong with a birth at Maidstone and emergency intervention was needed, the mother would be taken to the consultant-led unit at Pembury in an ambulance."

The journey from Maidstone Hospital to the new Pembury Hospital is 17 miles along the A26 and the A228.

Meanwhile, in February 2010, a giant banner with 3,000 protest letters was unfurled in Westminster as part of the campaign to keep a fully staffed maternity unit at Maidstone hospital. 20,000 people have signed a petition to not downgrade the unit.

Laura Fernlee
Laura Fernlee is campaigning against the downgrading

Mother of one, Laura Fernlee from Maidstone, is a campaigner for consultants to remain at the Maidstone maternity unit. Laura went into labour four weeks early.

She shares her concerns about the downgrading of the maternity unit at Maidstone:

"Out of a group of five of us three of my friends had emergency caesareans and up until the point they went into labour they had perfectly normal births (sic) so there would have been nothing in their cases to make them think they needed to go to Pembury for a consultant-led birth. For me, it's how do you make that decision?"

The NHS Trust said it was working with campaigners to ensure that everyone properly understood the proposals.


Do you think Maidstone's Maternity Unit should become midwife-led in 2011 in favour of a consultant-led unit at Pembury?

This is my first pregnancy and I have already had four bleeds. The labour itself is something I am very worried about due to the complications I've had and the thought of having to travel to another hospital whilst in labour is a horrendous thought. A town this large (and still expanding) should have more resources, not less. Pregnancy and new life is not given enough regard in this country.
Samantha Bourner, Maidstone UK

This is my first pregnancy and I have already had four bleeds. The labour itself is something I am very worried about due to the complications I've had and the thought of having to travel to another hospital whilst in labour is a horrendous thought. A town this large (and still expanding) should have more resources, not less. Pregnancy and new life is not given enough regard in this country.
Samantha Bourner, Maidstone UK

Perhaps the answer could be that some women like the atmosphere of a midwife led unit while others seek the reassurance of doctors. Can the answer be a seperate midwife led unit attached to Maidstone Hospital, the William Harvey have managed it. It would be scary that you would have to face the journey from Maidstone to Pembury.
Sarah, Dover

Please don't do it - reconsider! Our son was born in Maidstone and needed emergency intervention from the consultant and registrar at birth. There were no complications before this and I'm sure had the situation been assessed, it would have been classified as low risk. I don't think he would have survived a 17 mile journey at tea time rush hour to Pembury. If someone else doesn't get the same service that we did, from a specialist doctor-led team, because the consultants and registrars are so far away, then that would be a tragedy for them. The people of Maidstone and surrounding areas do not deserve to be let down like this.
Brian Mulligan and Judy O'Hare

Twenty seven years ago I drove my heavily pregnant wife a very similar journey from Larkfield to Pembury. It was very stressful. Narrow, congested, winding roads, which cannot be driven quickly, with traffic and other potential hazards, with passenger(s) in some discomfort all makes for a life-threatening cocktail. In addition there is nothing to say that natural processes will not suddenly accelerate. My mother was an extremely competent and caring district midwife but would not want to have the responsibility of delivering a baby so far from expert advice and facilities. Finally, shame on the two political parties trying to make capital out of a situation that affects the whole community. I will not sign either of their petitions.
Robin Kinrade

This was planned to go to Pembury to justify the building going ahead. Logistically there is no sense going from Maidstone to Pembury. The roads are very winding and only a dual carriageway near Paddock Wood with very limited speeds. The roads are nearly always congested so a disaster and a stress drive to Pembury. My son was born by caesarean section that was urgently required at Maidstone.
Robin

This is what has been happening in Dover for years. Our hospital is midwife led and if there is a need to go to a consultant led unit then we need to go to either William Harvey in Ashford (16.5m) or QEQM in Margate (17.5m). As someone who has done this journey whilst in labour it was not fantastic but the midwifes at Buckland Hospital were superb and the atmosphere is great really relaxed. The midwifes do most of the interaction anyway and you only see the consultants if something is going drastically wrong anyway.
Gillian

PLEASE DONT DOWN GRADE Maidstone Maternity Unit! 17 miles is too far for ladies in labour to travel, my baby was born in July this year and would have been born somewhere around Whitbred Hopfarm if I'd have had to travel......PLEASE DON'T DO THIS!
J Reddy

Maidstone Hospital was built in a prime location to enable easy access & expansion. It is appalling they are going to take this service away. People spend hours on the roads to Pembury stuck in traffic!
Jo Humphrey

My 26 year old very fit healthy daughter had a full uncomplicated pregnancy with absolutely no cause for concern. Baby's due date came and went and after 10 days a planned induction was on the horizon. My daughter went into labour spontaneously on that day, so the induction was not necessary. All went well and her labour progressed through the day with regular monitoring but baby was firmly resisting coming into the world! She had chosen to go to Medway Hospital rather than Maidstone - a choice she was given as she lives in Walderslade. Then very suddenly, things changed and she was told it was necessary for an emergency caesarean to be performed. My daughter was propelled from the delivery suite to the adjoining theatre where a team of gowned and prepared surgeons and other specialists were on hand to safely deliver my grandchild who was whisked straight to the Special Care Baby Unit. The time between being the change of circumstances and being told she needed surgery, until baby was born, was less than half an hour. There was obviously great concern for the baby and speed was of the essence at the end of the day. It is utter rubbish to think that anyone can best guess the outcome of a normal uncomplicated pregnancy.
Maggie

Absolutely mad idea! Not ALL pregnancy related problems are flagged until the baby needs emergency intervention, this is a big risk to mother and baby if they have to be moved to Pembury first! I had this experience myself, it was scary and unsettling! What if there was no room at Pembury??!!! The consequences of down grading this service could be disastrous!
Joanne Langley


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