BIRTHS are at a record low at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
Latest figures obtained by the Guardian show that just 112 babies were born at the Euxton Lane site last year – compared to 4,411 at neighbouring Royal Preston Hospital.
The news comes as the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the two hospitals, this week revealed plans for a new midwifery-led birth centre in the city.
The state-of-the-art facility will be created as part of a planned £754,000 investment in to maternity services, which will also see en-suite accommodation created in Chorley and the installation of new birthing pools.
Now, the town’s MP Lindsay Hoyle has warned expectant mums must ‘use or lose’ the unit in Chorley.
He said: “I welcome any investment in to the maternity services at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
“The message that has to be sent out now though is ‘use it or lose it.’
“We had the first midwife-led unit in the country and it is sad that the number of babies being born there now only equates to an average of two a week.”
In 2010, the Guardian revealed how postnatal care had been withdrawn at the Chorley facility – with new mums being discharged just six hours after giving birth.
It was the result of a steady decline in the number of births there – with the new figures showing that it fell from 287 in 2008 to 253 in 2009 and 172 in 2010.
The numbers were down to almost half by 2011 with just 129 babies registered as being born there.
That compared to a steady increase in Preston – which is up from 4202 in 2008 to 4411 last year.
Reacting to the planned investment, Mum-of-10 Melanie Webster, who has led an online campaign to save the birth centre at Chorley, said: “This is certainly mixed news as far as I’m concerned.
“It is good that a midwife-led centre will be created in Preston as it will encourage women to have a more natural birth and the doctors and neo-natal care will be right on their doorstep. It isn’t good news for Chorley though as even more women will opt to birth in Preston.
“The figures are a far cry from when I gave birth to my first child in Chorley and the centre was packed and the staff rushed off their feet.
“Now mothers are worried about being discharged just hours after giving birth.
“The criteria for giving birth there and the staffing level won’t be changed as part of the investment so it’s certainly not going to encourage more women to choose Chorley.”
In November, the Trust applied for funding from a new £25m Department of Health maternity service fund and their application for £754,000 has now been approved.
The funding will be used to develop the new midwifery-led birth centre at Royal Preston Hospital to complement the obstetric care already available, and to improve the birth centre at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
Sue Reed, the Trust’s nursing director, said: “This investment is great news for women, partners and babies in Chorley and Preston, and will enable us to improve the birth environment in both hospitals, and give women greater choice.
“Midwifery-led care, provided in a birth centre, can provide mums who have uncomplicated pregnancies and labour with a better experience in a more relaxed environment.
“We are delighted to be able to offer local mums a full range of birth options in a modern, comfortable, purpose-built environment.”