On 28 September 2016, Victoria Prentis MP visited the John Radcliffe (JR) maternity unit. This provided Victoria with an opportunity to look at the facilities available to mothers and their babies. The visit focused on the additional provisions that are being put in place in anticipation of the extra births that will now take place at the JR from October 3 2016, following the downgrade of the Horton General Hospital maternity unit.

Victoria felt it was important to have a look at the facilities available to women from the Banbury area who will now have to give birth at the JR in Oxford. She was able to look at two new rooms on the delivery suite, and was shown the pre and postnatal wards. The wards now have three extra single rooms and a four bed bay, created out of the old breastfeeding room. A new breastfeeding room has also been built and is almost ready to open. On the delivery suite, a theatre has been set aside to use as a contingency if more rooms are needed. The rooms are still under construction but contractors are working to have them ready next week.

Victoria also visited the JR’s Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) and saw the extra beds that have been made available. The Trust informed Victoria that, in staffing terms, it is expected that 25 full-time equivalent midwives will move their place of work from the Horton to the JR, and will be rostered accordingly from Monday. Six extra staff are being placed in the SCBU unit at the JR to cope with increased patient numbers.

In order to provide extra support and care for mothers from North Oxfordshire who have delivered at the JR, there are extra plans in place for a new baby clinic which will operate Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. The clinic will be positioned at the Horton General Hospital. If any new mothers have any concerns, they are encouraged to drop in during this time. Staff in the children’s ward at the Horton will also be able to provide extra follow up care for high-risk babies who have left a SCBU.

New 36 week scans will now be made available at both the Horton and the JR. It is hoped these scans will help to pick up on any previously undetected issues, allowing birthing plans to be adapted accordingly.

Despite continuing concerns about the decision to downgrade the maternity unit at the Horton, Victoria was pleased that provisions for extra mothers had been considered and commented, “I came back reassured that mothers will not end up giving birth in corridors at the John Radcliffe. While we all desperately want the Horton obstetric unit to stay open, and I know that we will continue the fight, I felt I ought to look at the facilities a number of mothers from North Oxfordshire will be using.  Clearly, considerable efforts have been made to accommodate them. I was a little concerned that some of the changes appear to be only suitable in the short term but, as we all hope that our unit will only be closed temporarily, I very much hope that the stand-in facilities at the JR will not be needed long enough for this to be a problem.

While I remain hopeful that the downgrade of the maternity unit will be reversed in the New Year, I am relieved that temporary provisions for extra accommodation at the JR have been made.”