The launch of a new centralised booking service for pregnant women in 2014 appears to have been the key turning point for the under-threat maternity services at the Vale of Leven Hospital, Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie has said.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde announced plans last week to transfer births to Paisley or Glasgow because it believes the number of new-borns delivered at the Vale is too low to sustain the service.
But Jackie Baillie has accused the health board of not supporting the Vision for the Vale by failing to promote the Vale of Leven Hospital after it emerged that the launch of a new centralised booking hotline for pregnant women coincided with a sharp fall in the number of women giving birth at the Alexandria unit. From June 2014 all newly pregnant women were told to phone a call centre based at the Southern General hospital to book an appointment instead of contacting their local GP. In the same year there was a 57% drop in the number of babies born at the Vale of Leven Hospital even though the total number of births by local mums actually rose by 6%.
Jackie Baillie said the new centralised call centre appears to be behind the sudden collapse in birth numbers at the Vale of Leven Hospital by breaking the link with local GPs who are well placed to promote local services.
The landmark Vision for the Vale agreement between the Scottish Government and the health board in 2009 promised to “sustain and promote” the service. It is clear that this has been seriously undermined by the health board and Jackie Baillie is calling on the SNP Health Secretary to step in to halt the closure.
“The health board claims that our local services are not viable but their own figures clearly show that the centralisation of the booking service appears to be the turning point for the maternity unit at the Vale of Leven Hospital. The number of babies being born at the Vale had been steady for some time, even showing some signs of improvement, before the link with local GPs was broken and the numbers nosedived.
“I have heard from numerous local GPs who tell me that they rarely see pregnant women since the introduction of the new system and are therefore unable to talk to local women about the excellent staff and services at the Vale.
“I welcomed the Vision for the Vale at the time because it promised to sustain our local services, including specific reassurances for the future of the maternity unit. The SNP Health Secretary and the First Minister repeated their commitment to the Vision for the Vale before the election. Yet it would appear that the health board was directly undermining that Vision with their centralised booking system. More local women were having babies, but they were not at the Vale.
“It’s now time for the SNP government to halt the cuts and guarantee that local women will continue to have the choice of a midwife-led birth at their local hospit