THE First Minister and Health Minister say no changes are planned to maternity services at Withybush Hospital - flying in the face of what medical sources say.

And, following questions from the Western Telegraph, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed talks are underway about 'alternative staffing models'.

At First Minister's Question last week, Mark Drakeford, responding to a question from county AM Paul Davies about reports that the midwife led unit (MLU) at Withybush would be reduced to a day-staffed facility, said: "Let me be absolutely clear so that the Member need not go on repeating it, that there is no risk of the sort that he has just described to maternity services at Withybush Hospital."

He went on: "And there are are no proposals of any sort to make changes in the service provided there."

The following day, the Health Minister responded to a question from Joyce Watson asking him to confirm "there are no plans as we speak for maternity services that currently exist in Withybush hospital to change to be removed."

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: "There is absolutely no threat to 24/7 deliveries being made at Withybush."

But the Western Telegraph has been told that Hywel Dda University Health Board is looking at the way the midwife led unit will be staffed overnight.

Currently, midwives are based at the MLU on night shifts.

But the proposal being worked on is to deploy midwives and MLU staff to the community, ending night shifts.

The MLU would then be manned at night via an 'on call' system.

A source with knowledge of the plans, told the WT: "This allows the Health Board to claim that the service remains 24/7 and I suppose in a way, technically, it does. But at the moment if you turn up at the unit there, stressed, in labour, there will be people there all night. But it seems like that in the future you will have to have contacted an on-call staff member to meet you there.

"Managers and the Health Board can claim all they like that its the same 24/7 service but that is just playing with words.

"I think everyone can see that it simply isn't the same level of service, no matter how many times you say it."

The Western Telegraph asked the Health Board to confirm that the First Minister and Health Minister were correct and there were no proposals of any sort to make a change in the services provided at the Withybush MLU.

The WT also asked the Health Board to confirm:

  • That midwives and support staff will continue to be based at and work at the MLU at Withybush Hospital 24 hours a day;
  • That night shifts at the MLU at Withybush Hospital are planned to continue long term.
  • There are no plans for midwives to be ‘on call’ rather than based at the MLU overnight?

In a statement, Keith Jones, Assistant Director of Acute Services at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “The MLU at Withybush provides 24/7 services to women who choose midwifery-led care.

“We can confirm that there are absolutely no plans to reduce the level of service provision to the local population.

“We can also confirm that patients will not face any reduction in access to the Midwife Led Unit, which will remain open to women in Pembrokeshire 24/7.

“Midwifery staff working in Pembrokeshire have been involved in exploratory discussions about alternative staffing models and working patterns in order to improve the continuity of care for women and their families, in line with national recommendations.

“Ideas under consideration include opportunities to better integrate community midwives, MLU midwifery staff and Healthcare Support Workers into a single team to enhance the continuity of care provided.

“Whilst we can confirm that the MLU at Withybush General Hospital will continue to be the base for all midwives and HCSW working within Pembrokeshire, we are exploring opportunities for midwifery staff who support women in the community to accompany women under their care into the MLU as an alternative to care being handed over to a separate midwifery team, with whom they may not have an established relationship.

“Details of any changes to working patterns are yet to be confirmed but we do wish to re-assure any women who choose to deliver in the MLU at Withybush Hospital that they will be supported by a midwife at all times.

“We also wish to re-assure women that on-call community midwifery support will continue to be available 24/7.”