NHS defends plans to give birth advice in supermarkets

Essex County Standard: NHS defends plans to give birth advice in supermarkets NHS defends plans to give birth advice in supermarkets

HEALTH bosses defended plans to hold baby clinics in supermarkets.

New mothers and mums-tobe could go to superstores for check-ups as part of a shake-up of maternity services in north Essex.

Ivan Henderson, a district councillor for Harwich who is battling proposals to close or downgrade Harwich and Clacton's maternity units, branded the latest move ridiculous.

NHS spokesman Carol Wood said: “The feedback we have had is people want to be able to fit maternity services in with their busy lives. Many women tell us getting to hospital is not necessarily convenient.

“We would have a room set aside for checks that don’t need to be done in hospital. The hospital would continue to provide services, but we want to provide greater choice and care closer to home.’’ Health services in supermarkets have worked elsewhere. In 2006, East Kent NHS won an award for holding antenatal clinics, with a free bus service, in Sainsbury’s.

The NHS is also looking at providing antenatal and postnatal care in GP surgeries and children's centres.

Mr Henderson said mums in Harwich would prefer to go to the town’s maternity unit. It is under threat after a review of services was announced.

Options include closure or downgrading it to a birthing unit. Mrs Wood said claims the unit had been forced to close its doors because of staff shortages at Colchester General Hospital were misleading, but admitted Harwich was shut occasionally because of its own staffing levels.

She said: “We have a very small number of births in the unit at Harwich. If there is a staffing issue related to Harwich, it wouldn’t be appropriate to send midwives from the busy unit at Colchester to keep Harwich open when they only have two or three births a week. We need to make sure staff levels at Colchester are maintained.

“But it’s not that we take midwives from Harwich to Colchester. It’s a misconception.’’ Mrs Wood said they would be approaching women for feedback on the proposals when they are finalised in the New Year.

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