Funding cuts set to force midwife classes and baby clinics out of town

Mother and baby.

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.

Brook Way Activity Centre, Bradley Stoke.

Photo: Brook Way Activity Centre, where the two weekly clinics are currently held.

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  1. For goodness sake, what’s it coming to when the NHS can’t afford to pay the £30 room hire to run a clinic? There’s a big tax-paying population in Bradley Stoke – we deserve better. We have a right to these services! Getting rid of just one superfluous NHS manager would probably pay for sessions like this across the whole of South Gloucestershire.

  2. To whom do I make my £29.10 payable to? Perhaps there could be a voluntary donation pot for clinic visitors to guage continued interest. *mutters something about BSTC wasting money on other projects*

  3. Just Google “the cost of changing a light bulb in the NHS” and you will see they are trying to make savings in the wrong area.

    To deny this group of people the facilities they need and justifying it by saying it can’t be afforded is disgraceful

  4. Did the Town council give any reason for this? £29.10 x 52 = £1,513.20. But then it is a council that still has no Youth centre provision and spent £400,000 on another office. Poor decision by the NHS, I hope that the Town council has written to those that make the decisions. I believe the current council has the wrong priorities when it comes to doing the right thing for the people they represent.

  5. Yeh, it was great seeing the NHS shown off to the world in the Olympic opening ceremony. Made you proud to be British. Unfortunately, this issue better illustrates the day to day reality of healthcare in Bradley Stoke.

  6. @Jon Moore, Minutes of the September 2012 meeting:

    “Following discussion, Councillor Roger Avenin proposed that the free usage of the rooms ends for both groups (with 3 months notice being given) and the community rate be charged from 1st January 2013, with representatives from both groups being invited to attend the next Full Council meeting in November to discuss the matter in more detail, seconded by Councillor Brian Hopkinson. A vote was taken, 8 in favour, 3 abstentions, proposal carried.”

  7. Words fail me, do they know how important these programmes are for parents? They are quiet literally taking the legs away from people who need it most. Priorities in the wrong place, and are continuously letting Bradley Stoke residents down.

  8. What a joke, surely there is a room the council can find in their office or even a school to hold this for free if they cant stump up the £30 a week. A petition with 51 names should be enough since that’s all they needed to waste money on dog signs… I’d sign it for one!

  9. Catchup article in the Bristol Post today:

    Baby clinic closure blow will leave new mums facing longer journeys

    Bradley Stoke Town Council told the paper:

    “The town council have been supporting these services for the last two years while the NHS continues to wholly fund the same services in Stoke Gifford, Patchway and Filton. Bradley Stoke taxpayers are being asked to pay twice for the same service while the NHS seem intent on creating a postcode lottery with regard to ante and postnatal care.”

  10. This is a terrible position these mothers now find themselves in. Furthermore a risky game that the town council is playing, forcing the NHS trust to find the funding they say they cant afford. Perhaps if the Tory lead government wasnt taking money out of the NHS they could afford to do more. However, it seems to me that the council has not made a clear case, nor had meetings with the trust involved to better make their case for better funding for Bradley Stoke. All the while those who are to suffer, those stuck in the middle are the mothers of the children.

  11. Bradley Stoke Town Council tonight voted to extend its provision of free accommodation for the classes/clinics until 31st March 2013. Letters will be written to the NHS (asking it to reconsider its decision), Bradley Stoke Surgery (asking if it can provide or fund accommodation) and Jack Lopresti MP.

  12. Isn’t there a spare room in Bradley Stoke Surgery that can be used? The building has doubled in size but it’s still impossible to see a doctor, so can only presume there’s plenty of empty of space there.

  13. I was very disappointed to hear this news at my midwife appointment today, just like her I was shocked that funding could be withdrawn from such an important aspect of the community. It is very important that mums to be attend antenatal classes in their local area as this allows them to meet other mums nearby within the community. Many mums will not have a car and would be planning to walk to their appointments which will now at be possible. This is one of the reason we chose Bradley stoke as the area to raise our child as these important services were within a close proximity so is such a shame that may no longer be the case!

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