HEALTH chiefs went on a charm offensive this week ahead of major changes to services at Dewsbury and District Hospital.

From next Friday, September 16, the maternity unit will become midwife-led, as opposed to the current consultant-led system.

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is also changing children’s care at Dewsbury. The dedicated children’s assessment unit, which only opened in 2014, will no longer be open 24 hours a day. It will instead operate from 10am-10pm, with referrals from 10am-8pm.

The Trust says that all seriously ill children will be taken to Pinderfields.

Every house in the district should now have received a booklet detailing the changes, and this week The Press was given a tour of some of the new facilities at Dewsbury.

The glossy 12-page brochure, which has cost £11,000 to produce and details the main changes to healthcare in the district, has been posted to approximately 60,000 homes in North Kirklees. The cost per household is 18.5p.

Matt England, director of planning and partnerships at the Trust, described the brochure as a cost-effective way of getting information across to the public.

He said: “We have been careful to achieve a balance between the need to spend money wisely and the imperative to make sure people understand the service changes and we are confident that spending under 20p, less than half the cost of a second class stamp per household, is justified.

“This booklet guarantees blanket coverage to all residents and explains all planned changes to our hospitals. Alternative methods would come at a higher cost and would not have the same penetration.”

On Tuesday, The Press toured the new £1.83m midwife-led Bronte Birth Centre, with staff keen to point out the benefits of the new system.

There will be two midwives and one healthcare assistant on site at all times, with community midwives on call for busy periods.

Healthcare professionals have been quick to assure residents that the change at Dewsbury to a midwife-led unit is to allow all consultant specialists to be based at one site (Pinderfields) to concentrate on care for high-risk women.

If there is a need to transfer from Dewsbury to Pinderfields, then a midwife will travel with the mother in an ambulance to ensure continuity of care.

The new-build birth centre, opposite the old Bronte Tower on the Staincliffe site, features en-suite double rooms which allow couples to stay together following the birth.

Two state-of-the-art birthing pools have also been installed for women to opt for.

Caitlin Wilson, consultant midwife at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said the new facility would mean that expectant mums would be able to experience a more comfortable birthing environment with their family around them.

Expectant mothers who are considered “low-risk” will be able to use the new centre at Dewsbury while those who need consultant care will be taken to Pinderfields.

The new centre will not be able to administer epidurals to women in labour – however, only around four per cent of women nationally have an epidural.

The facility will open on Monday, September 19, with an open day planned for next Thursday to enable GPs and other officials to tour the unit, which is expected to accommodate up to 1,000 women a year.

The raft of changes come despite months of protests from a number of pressure groups and local politicians.

MP Paula Sherriff (Lab, Dewsbury and Mirfield) previously told The Press: “I remain incredibly concerned about patient safety across the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust.

“I have held numerous meetings and taken part in debates in Parliament to bring these issues to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

“I am extremely disappointed that no action has been taken and that these downgrades are still going ahead.”

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