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Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Friday, 29 October 2010 13:22 UK
Salford born and bred - but for how much longer?
Samantha and Charlie Blackwell with their baby Jack
Keeping Hope alive: Jack Blackwell was born premature at Salford

Five-month-old Jack Blackwell is Salford born and bred - and possibly one of a dying breed.

Jack arrived four weeks premature at Salford Royal, the hospital still known locally as Hope.

But the city's only maternity unit is facing closure as part of a shake-up of maternity services in Greater Manchester.

Campaigners fighting the plan claim it could even mark the extinction of the true Salfordian.

'Horrified'

Samantha Blackwell cannot speak highly enough of Hope's maternity unit.

She spent four weeks there while Jack was treated in special care as a result of his impromptu arrival.

"I was terrified when my waters broke early," she said. "But the staff there were absolutely brilliant.

"I've spoken to friends who have had babies and the care and support I received was above and beyond."

Like hundreds of other mums in Salford, Samantha is 'horrified' at the prospect of Hope losing its maternity and special care baby unit.

"Some of the doctors and nurses have been there 20 years and I feel very uncomfortable at the idea of having to go somewhere else."

Shake-up

In 2004, a review of children's health services in Greater Manchester was launched called 'Making it Better', which identified maternity units in Bury, Rochdale, Trafford and Salford as surplus to requirements.

Newborn baby
3,100 babies were born at Salford Royal in 2008/09

The plan is for just eight maternity units in the region and retain three specialist neonatal units at St Mary's in Manchester, the Royal Bolton and the Royal Oldham hospitals as 'centres of excellence.'

After much wrangling, Salford's fate will be decided at a meeting in November 2010 which could leave it the largest city in England without its own consultant-led maternity unit.

If that's the case, more than 3,000 Salford mothers-to-be each year will have to have their babies in Manchester or Bolton instead - leaving just 500 midwife-led births a year at a small centre at Salford Royal.

But does it matter where you're born?

Sarah Davies is senior midwifery lecturer at the University of Salford and a supporter of the Keep Hope Maternity Open campaign.

She said depriving mums the chance of having their babies locally was 'really upsetting' for many people.

"I think it does matter," she said.

"Having births in the community is crucial to people's sense of wellbeing and sense of belonging to that community.

"Also, if you only have a stand alone unit, women who need any kind of intervention will have to transfer to St Mary's which will mean moving pregnant women, possibly in rush hour."

Tradition

That means pregnant women like Louise Taylor from Swinton.

Louise Taylor and partner Chris McCarthy
My mum and dad, my grandparents and their parents were all born in Salford... we want the same for our baby
Louise Taylor, Swinton

Louise, 26, and her partner Chris are expecting their first baby and want keep a family tradition alive by having it at Hope.

"My mum and dad were born in Salford, my grandparents and their parents were all born in Salford," she said.

"So, to me it does matter. It's where I'm from and where I've been brought up and we want the same for our baby.

Adding: "If I was told I had to have my baby at St Mary's, for a start I wouldn't know how to get there."

Dr Mike Maresh, lead obstetrician for the Greater Manchester Maternity Network, said he accepted it was 'an emotive issue.'

But he added that there were good clinical and geographical reasons to concentrate the expertise at a smaller number of units.

"Manchester is behind the rest of the UK in trying to do something about it."

"The reality is that Manchester and Salford are literally touching each other, and if we want to make an overall reduction in the the number of maternity units [in Greater Manchester], it doesn't make sense to retain both."

NHS North West have delayed a decision on the future of Salford Royal maternity unit until February 2011.





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