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Maternity Matters: Stroud women deserve better than this – Dr Simon Opher


Dear Editor,

Come the autumn, Stroud Maternity’s post-natal beds will have been closed for a year.

Many of us, including local midwives, Stroud Maternity Matters, and Gloucester Hospitals Foundation Trust (GHFT) have been working hard behind the scenes to try and engineer a way that the beds might be reopened.

The cause is relatively simple to explain, but harder to resolve – a lack of staff. Workforce issues, predominantly training and retaining new midwives, mean that we have a shortage of trained staff to open the unit. Thanks to GHFT, more midwives are being trained and appointed, but the scarcity of staff, after a long period of underinvestment and an unsupportive Government position on nurses pay and conditions, means that many midwives have left the NHS.

Deborah Lee (chief executive GHFT) and medical lead Dr Mark Pietroni have worked incredibly hard on this, and I am hopeful that a new raft of midwives will soon be in place to allow our beds to re-open. They are working, against a picture of a national shortage of staff, to locally train midwives and boost midwife numbers. 

The NHS everywhere is struggling. Because of this, I have been exploring innovative ways to deliver post-natal care in Stroud. This might mean using different grades of staff to help women in the post-natal period. The very stringent safety criteria imposed by the care quality commission and the Ockenden Report doesn’t help small units like Stroud.

What we need in Gloucestershire, and the NHS in general, is the meaningful investment in training of nursing staff. At the moment, the NHS is existing on sticking plaster repairs (like the government’s piecemeal training schemes). This is simply not enough. Local midwives and doctors are fed up with government ministers and MPs patting themselves on the back with statements in the Houses of Parliament about new schemes while the reality is that beds remain closed.

I am really hopeful that Stroud Maternity will re-open fully in the near future. This will be a victory for local health care staff, Stroud Maternity Matters and the Hospital League of Friends who have worked through such difficult conditions, to ensure that women get the best care possible. 

Let’s make sure that the NHS is never again allowed to deteriorate to this level. Stroud women deserve better than this.

Dursley GP, Dr Simon Opher, Labour Party candidate for the Stroud constituency

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