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Maternity Services

Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

I present a petition of more than 10,000 signatures from the people of Copeland and west Cumbria concerning the provision of consultant-led maternity services at West Cumberland hospital in Whitehaven.

At the weekend, I was privileged to march through the streets of the town alongside 4,000 men, women and children in a demonstration supporting the retention of services at the hospital as part of the “Save our Services” campaign organised by The Whitehaven News. The campaign is to save all our services, but maternity services are particularly important given the number of other services that their presence underpins. The House may expect further petitions in due course.

Local health authorities have recently undertaken a review of maternity services in north Cumbria, which led to fear, anger and anxiety throughout the area about the prospect of all services being centralised in Carlisle. Most importantly, however, that fear is due to the fact that West Cumberland hospital is more than42 miles from Cumberland infirmary in Carlisle and is badly served by poor roads and public transport provision, so much so that much of Copeland is even further away. Millom is 70 miles away, Egremont and Seascale are 50 miles away and Ravenglass and Eskdale are nearly 60 miles away.

We are a special case. What works in Kensington does not work in west Cumbria. One size does not fit all. As the borough that holds the world’s largest concentration of radioactive material on a single site, we clearly deserve special attention.

The choice of women in west Cumbria is to give birth in a fully operating consultant, obstetrician and gynaecologist-led maternity unit at West Cumberland hospital. It is my belief and that of my constituents that that is non-negotiable.

The petition states:

To the House of Commons.

The Petition of the residents of the Borough of Copeland and others throughout West Cumbria,

Declares their strong opposition to the threatened changes to maternity services in West Cumbria which would lead to the majority of women having to travel to Carlisle for maternity care.

The Petitioners further declare that the provision of consultant led obstetric and gynaecological services at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven is an absolute necessity for both the current West Cumberland Hospital and its suggested replacement; that there is no clinical evidence to support a move away from a consultant led maternity unit to a midwife led maternity unit; and that the policy of Government is to provide women with birth choices.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons now urge the Northwest Strategic Health Authority, the Cumbria Primary Care Trust, the North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust and the Department of Health to ensure that the forthcoming public consultation on maternity services provision in West Cumbria includes the retention and improvement of those maternity services currently provided at the West Cumberland hospital and its suggested replacement.

And the Petitioners remain etc.

To lie upon the Table.