Weekly midwife classes and baby clinics currently held at the Brook Way Activity Centre look set to be forced out of town after Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) voted to stop providing free room hire.
The Town Council stepped in to support the services two years ago, after the NHS said it could no longer afford to pay for room hire at two venues in Bradley Stoke.
At the time, the NHS wanted to move the classes to the Sure Start Children’s Centre at Bowsland Green Primary School, but the midwives and heath visitors that run the classes insisted that the proposed new venue was too small and that a move there would lead to shorter sessions because groups would have to be split.
In September 2010, the health workers approached the Town Council to ask if they would provide free room hire to allow the “vital community services” to “continue in their current form”, which Councillors agreed to do for a period of two years.
But when the arrangement came up for review in September this year, Councillors decided to end the offer of free room hire, giving the NHS three month’s notice.
For the clinics and classes to continue at Brook Way, the NHS would have to pay the “non-Bradley Stoke community rate” of £14.55/hour, meaning that room hire for each of the two weekly two-hour sessions would cost £29.10, but the health authority says it can’t afford this and so the classes and clinics will have to relocate to neighbouring areas.
Local mum Helen Taylor-Woodward, a user of the Bradley Stoke baby health clinic, told The Journal:
“I am shocked and dismayed that the NHS could withdraw funding for what is such a vital community resource to new mothers in Bradley Stoke. It is virtually impossible to speak to the health visitors when you need them as they are so busy. They always return messages but the only opportunity to see them face to face is at the clinic.”
“Going to Patchway or Filton to see health visitors who don’t know me or my son is not going to give us the continuity of care we need and I believe have a right to.”
Speaking about the post-natal classes for new mums that are also under threat of being moved out of town, Ms Taylor-Woodward added:
“With my first daughter these classes were invaluable. I met all of the mum friends I have now, it stopped me from worrying and put my mind at rest by giving me information and a chance to discuss my worries and fears. I cannot believe that for the sake of £30 per week, which is what it costs to hire the room at the centre, we are to lose this service.”
Another user of the midwife classes contacted The Journal to say:
“It seems a real shame – just as the midwives arrive back at the refurbished doctors’ surgery – that the classes are moving back out of town. Surely the Town Council and NHS can resolve their differences here? After all, both organisations are funded by taxes paid by Bradley Stoke residents. Silo working by government organisations, councils and quangos doesn’t help anybody.”
A North Bristol NHS Trust spokesperson told The Journal:
“Unfortunately we can no longer afford the accommodation in Bradley Stoke where these groups/classes currently take place so we have to relocate them to nearby Little Stoke, Filton and Patchway. It is really important to stress that these services are not being closed, cut or lost – they are being relocated.”
“Obviously this is not an ideal situation for women in Bradley Stoke and we are proactively looking for alternative accommodation in the Bradley Stoke area – so hopefully this will only be a temporary solution.”
“We acknowledge that some women may find it difficult to get to Little Stoke, Filton or Patchway if they don’t drive so if they are concerned we would ask that they talk to their midwife who can potentially put them in touch with another woman who can drive and lift share.”
“The ideal situation is that women get advice/education in a group session but if this can’t be done, they still get this through their one-to-one midwife appointments – so again, they won’t lose out.”
The spokesperson would not be drawn on whether the Bradley Stoke Sure Start Children’s Centre was under consideration as an alternative venue for the classes, although this seem unlikely as South Gloucestershire Council announced earlier this year that it was withdrawing funding from the centre, meaning it will have to be “decommissioned” from April 2013, should no other organisation come forward to run it.
A health visitor and a midwife attended the last meeting of BSTC’s Full Council in November, where the possibility of charging class and clinic users was discussed as a possible way forward. The representatives were urged to “go back to their senior management to ascertain specific facts and figures relating to the use of the facilities and the financial implications if charges were introduced for the use of the facilities”.
The matter will be discussed again at a meeting of the Town Council’s Finance Committee at the Jubilee Centre this Wednesday (19th December, 7:30pm start). Members of the public are entitled to ask questions during a 15-minutes session at the start of the meeting.
Photo: Brook Way Activity Centre, where the two weekly clinics are currently held.
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