"The problem is that there's no room at the inn...Where will those women go? What will happen when those units are full and the women of Salford need to have a baby? We haven't had answers to those questions." Jeanne Lythgoe, Salford Maternity Forum
They came out in the early morning Manchester snow – mums with babies, midwives, community activists and concerned residents. They brought huge banners, placards and logical arguments in favour of keeping Hope's Maternity Unit open.
After originally banning the public from the decision meeting, the NHS North West Board agreed to not only allow campaigners into their meeting as observers, but also to let campaign members make a presentation.
Sarah Davies, a midwife and Salford mum, gave a passionate plea for keeping Hope Baby Unit open saying "it would be an unforgiveable crime" if the board voted to close it, "robbing Salford people of their heritage".
She argued that there were concerns over objectivity of the NCAT Report that endorsed the closure of Hope, that the review process had been "biased from the start", and that views from the Salford Maternity Forum hadn't been listened to throughout that process.
She added that the four tests set by the Government in order to approve the closure (see here) hadn't been met, particularly relating to clinical evidence, given the rising birth rate and possible lack of beds for women to give birth.
Sarah was followed by Samantha, a new Salford mum, who spoke of the "unparalleled care and support" she received at Hope… "It fills me with disgust and despair for the next time I give birth if Hope isn't here" she said "Why has Salford's community not got a choice? There is an absolute need and necessity for this unit in our area."
The NHS Chairman agreed that there were concerns over capacity information which he said was a "blockage in the road…before we can fully press the button". And he agreed, with the Board, to defer the decision pending more information until the next meeting.
"It's not what we wanted, but it's a stay of execution, another opportunity" says Jeanne Lythgoe of the Salford Maternity Forum "I think it was more comfortable for them not to have to make a decision today. But it's good that they're recognising that there may be issues around capacity."
"The problem is that there's no room at the inn" she adds "If that's the case with all the units open, we would have to question what would happen if they shut Salford, which is the biggest of the units they want to close. Where will those women go? What will happen when those units are full and the women of Salford need to have a baby? We haven't had answers to those questions."
The same concerns were raised by Salford's doctors…
"As far as we are aware that information hasn't been passed to them" says Avril Tomlinson of the Salford Maternity Forum and a retired midwife "We've also asked for the information under Freedom of Information and we haven't received it yet either.
"So now, we fight on" she adds "We've been given another opportunity to continue to work with the people of Salford and try to achieve our aim - which is the safety of mothers and babies across the whole of Greater Manchester, and in particular, Salford. I think people should continue dogging their doctor…"
Don't let NHS North West "fully press the button" to shut Hope Maternity Unit!
Keep dogging your doctor (click here), sign the petition (click here) and make sure that at the next Board meeting in January or February there are hundreds more Salfordians just saying `NO!'…
See previous features here and here