A POTENTIAL step forward in the fight to reopen postnatal beds at Stroud Maternity Hospital was taken this week. 

Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie has arranged a meeting with health minister Maria Caulfield to discuss along with Gloucestershire NHS scrutiny chair Andrew Gravells how to reopen postnatal beds at the town’s maternity hospital.

In September last year, a ward with six postnatal beds was suspended due to 'staffing challenges'. 

This closure means that beds are currently only available for six to 12 hours following a birth with new mums who require extra care being offered the option of home visits or attending another centre.

Over a year later and the closure remains in place. 

Ms Baillie told the House of Commons: "Stroud Maternity Hospital is doing a great job, but the postnatal beds are still not open. 

“We have been chasing a ministerial meeting about that for some time.

"Will my honourable friend meet me and the Gloucestershire NHS scrutiny chair to discuss the issue? 

In reply the minister said: “I am happy to meet my honourable friend to discuss that specific issue. 

“We are doing a piece of work on a capital survey of all maternity units as well as working with the CQC on how capital infrastructure - beds and so forth - are impacting on maternity performance."

Speaking afterwards Ms Baillie added: “I am keen to see these beds back in use for Stroud mums.

"We need to look at the CQC’s position regarding postnatal bed provision and explore all options to get them reopened at Stroud maternity."

Kate Buckingham, chair of Stroud Maternity Matters, welcomed the news that the MP is getting the gravity of the loss of postnatal beds up to the higher levels of the NHS.

She said: "The campaign to reopen the beds has been a frustrating exercise in the current climate of staff shortages.

"The community still remembers what they had before the beds were suspended and do not want to let the message that postnatal care is not a luxury quieten down.

"Each week we hear from families across the district who are keen to tell us that without residential postnatal stays their bonding, postnatal mental health and breastfeeding success rate has all been negatively impacted.

"The midwives do all they can in the circumstances to support women and the Hospital’s League of Friends has stepped into the breach to plug the gaps, funding a schedule of classes and clinics at the unit but this is not enough.

"Stroud wishes to reinstate its proud history of letting women truly rest after birth."

Gillian Holmes, doula and pregnancy yoga instructor says that the women she’s in touch with feel hugely let down by the ongoing closure. 

She said: “They know that in previous years people would have had the support of a gentle transition to parenthood at Stroud and now having to go home just 12 hours after giving birth is a shock.

"The staff at Stroud are so great at feeding support and general baby care as well as allowing the mums to recover following the birth and the loss of the beds at Stroud is a great shame.

"Stroud Maternity should be an example of excellence for the rest of the country - similar units should be being set up not closed down!”

Dr Simon Opher, Stroud's parliamentary candidate for Stroud said: “I am continuing to campaign to fully reopen Stroud Maternity.

“I have recently met with the senior management team in Gloucester about how we can get the postnatal beds reopened. 

“I believe that local action, by Roma White who chairs the hospital league of friends (LOF), together with local activists such as Stroud Maternity Matters is more likely to get the unit open. 

“Local discussions, not parliamentary ones, are the best way to get this moving again. 

“The LOF are delivering fantastic services for new mothers in the Maternity Hospital, as a day care type service. 

“I'm hoping our MP can get real support nationally to get the beds open, although so far this has been to no avail."

“Stroud mothers need and deserve this service, so we are keeping our fingers crossed, and carrying on with our fight.”

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has previously stressed that the maternity unit is still open.

The post-natal beds are temporarily closed due to staffing issues and to ensure there is one-to-one care for women giving birth.