New figures which show that the birth rate among local women has remained steady while the number of babies born at the Vale of Leven Hospital has fallen sharply cast new doubts on the health board’s commitment to promoting the maternity unit, local MSP Jackie Baillie has said.
The landmark Vision for the Vale agreement published in 2009 contained promises to “sustain and promote” the maternity unit by increasing marketing activity and raising awareness among mums-to-be of the benefits of giving birth in a midwife-led unit close to home. But now the health board wants to transfer deliveries to the RAH in Paisley or the QEUH in Govan, blaming a fall in the number of births.
The figures obtained by Jackie Baillie from the Scottish Government raise new questions for the health board. They show that the number of new babies born in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond has barely changed since 2009, dropping by only 8%, while the number of deliveries at the Vale unit has fallen by nearly 70%.
Jackie believes that such a huge disparity between the birth rate and the number of local women choosing to have their babies at the Vale can only be down to the health board’s lack of commitment to promoting the midwife-led unit.
“These figures show that the number of new babies has remained fairly stable over the past few years in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh yet the number of mums giving birth at the Vale has nosedived. It’s clear now that the health board will not be able to fob people off with excuses about a falling birth rate. There must be reasons why some mothers who are eligible to give birth at the Vale end up having their babies elsewhere.
“The Vision for the Vale agreement contained a very clear promise to sustain and promote the maternity unit to attract more local mums-to-be to the service. However the drop in usage of the Vale, with much of the decline happening in just the last year, suggests that the health board has not been serious about sustaining services at our local hospital. Health board chiefs need to be honest with local people about the reasons behind these figures and come up with a solution to ensure that future generations of local children continue to be born at the Vale