Barts baby blues

Shocking news about the decline in maternity services at Barts and the London Hospital.

Generations of Islington and Finsbury kids were born at Barts, until the decision was taken to close its maternity and A&E services. The Tories closed Barts as a local community hospital for Islington, and Labour failed to restore it, breaking the promises Chris Smith MP made to local voters. Although the hospital serves parts of Islington, the maternity services are now over on the Royal London site in Tower Hamlets. We were told this was the best way to ensure modern high quality care for the 21st century.

The recent HealthCare Commission report shows the opposite. The report is based on responses from 26,000 women who gave birth in January and February 2007, making it the largest survey ever of maternity experience across the country. Women who gave birth at Barts & the London spoke of filthy wards, uncaring staff and the degrading practice of being put into stirrups to give birth; the hospital was rated the worst in the country for care throughout labour

Women in labour are not sick; providing a basic decent service should be simple in a well-funded health service. Instead, there is a shortage of midwives while billions of pounds have been wasted on bureaucracy. The cost of the new NHS computer system has already doubled – to an estimated £12.4bn. Many IT experts doubt that such a huge, centralised system can actually work. The Government has imposed private providers on parts of the NHS, at the same time as well-loved community hospitals are threatened with closure. Meanwhile health professionals face constant change for change’s sake, while local communities have no real say over the priorities for services in our area.

The Islington Gazette headline says it all: New mums rate Bart’s worst for labour care. Or is that lack of Labour care? It is time for the Labour government to stop letting down patients. They must live up to the promises they made; invest in essential health services; cut bureaucracy and waste; and listen to local people’s priorities for our NHS. Those are the demands of our SOS for the NHS campaign. Then perhaps women giving birth will have the clean, safe, respectful service they deserve.

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