FIGURES from the Stroud community have responded following a BBC Panorama report on local maternity services which aired last night. 

Midwives have raised concerns about the care given to women and babies at an NHS trust.

It comes after the deaths of two newborns whose mothers had their babies at Cheltenham Birth Centre – a midwife-led birthing unit.

In the event of an emergency, mothers being cared for at the unit were taken to Gloucester Royal Hospital.

But a BBC Panorama report, which aired last night, says two midwives did not transfer their patients quickly enough, an error linked to the babies’ deaths.

Although Stroud was not mentioned in the show, figures from the town have reacted to the episode given the town's maternity unit which has been affected by national shortages. 

Chair of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends 

In response to the programme Roma Walker, Chair of Stroud Hospitals League of Friends said: "As with all maternity units, the impact of the chronic national shortage of midwives has been felt at Stroud Maternity Hospital.

"Despite this, the team has continued to provide the same superb care and expertise that has helped to ensure the safe delivery and care for thousands of local families over many decades. 

"The facilities at Stroud Maternity have been enhanced over recent years through significant additional funding from Stroud Hospitals League of Friends.

"The support available has been extended by the League of Friends to include fully funded pre- and post-natal services including singing and yoga (since 2017). More recently, we have also supported a raft of expert-led programmes for new mothers, providing both practical and wellbeing support, in addition to companionship. 

''As a result, Stroud Maternity Hospital now boasts an extensive range of free-of-charge services, delivered in collaboration with maternity staff. This offering has been exceptionally well received by both mothers and midwives.

"Within Gloucestershire it has been recognised as an exemplar of provision, and one that may well be unique in the whole country for the scope and quality of the additional programmes available to those who choose Stroud for the birth of their baby."

Stroud Maternity Matters 

Claire Rudge from SMM said: "Stroud Maternity Matters send love to all who have been affected by last night's panorama surrounding the maternal care in Gloucestershire.

"Please know that we too were shocked to hear about the programme as the trust had not disclosed this information to us.

"We walk hand in hand with each and every midwife in Gloucestershire and know that they are working to the best of their ability with the disgusting lack of resources and staffing levels.

"Post natal facilities at both Stroud and Cheltenham could relieve some of the pressures on GRH however the overriding issue is staffing which in the current hands is not going to change as one is recruited and one leaves."

Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie 

In this week's SNJ column, Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie said: "I know many people in Stroud district will have watched the BBC’s Panorama programme this week about Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s maternity services.

"It sadly documented two baby deaths and separately the death of a mother at Gloucester Royal Hospital. My heart goes out to the bereaved. It was extremely distressing to watch and it raised several issues around care, trust culture and staffing levels.

"I have used the Royal Gloucester and Stroud Maternity Hospital during the births of my two children. The care I received was excellent. 

"I have however read multiple reports about maternity care as I campaign on this nationally and the Gloucestershire services are presently rated as inadequate for safety.  

"Myself and my Gloucestershire MP colleagues are concerned about what the programme detailed, especially around a culture of not listening to those who repeatedly raised concerns about the standard of care of two midwives employed by the trust.

"Concerns about staffing levels were also raised.

"I would like to thank those who did raise concerns and were brave enough to go on the programme.

"The trust is now under new leadership and I speak with the leadership teams regularly. It says it has learnt from what happened and put new measures in place. 

"I understand staff are seeing improvements. 

"It added that staff can raise concerns about safety and the most important thing is to send the message to expectant mothers that their care is a priority.  

"People in Stroud district need to have confidence the maternity services they access here in Stroud or in Gloucester are safe.

"There needs to be continued improvement of these services to regain that trust.  I do believe the work is being done to respond to concerns raised by the inspections and investigations.  

"I know many families have a wonderful experience - myself included - using our local maternity services and being helped by the dedicated staff but when it is not the case, things have to improve. 

"I am also always anxious to see support for midwives and new recruits as it is imperative that more people choose to work in maternity.  

"The government has recognised the need to recruit more midwives and is spending £186 million annually to grow the workforce. 

"Post pandemic staffing issues remain. Here in Stroud the excellent maternity hospital is doing a great job but the post-natal beds are still not open.

"This is something I have raised in parliament.

"I am also meeting with the minister responsible for maternity services Maria Caulfield to discuss the closed beds at Stroud and the Panorama programme."

Dursley GP Simon Opher 

Dr Simon Opher, Labour's parliamentary candidate for the Stroud constituency, said: "It was with horror and great sadness that I learned about the maternity and infant deaths highlighted in the programme. 

"My heart goes out to the bereaved families.

"From working in maternity and neonatal service I know first hand how utterly devastating these losses must be.

"I also feel for the staff at such times, and I would like to send my support to the midwives and obstetricians affected.

"They work incredibly hard and with utter dedication in such difficult situations.

"The truth of the matter is that families, mothers, babies and staff have been badly let down.

"The NHS is on its knees after 14 yrs of mismanagement by this Government.

"We have a severe shortage of midwives which has been utterly predictable as we simply haven’t trained and retained enough.

"The staff are now working under intense pressure and although the Government claims to be training more, the reality on the delivery suites and maternity wards is very different.

"Stroud Maternity post natal beds remain closed because of lack of staff.

"The delivery suite in Gloucester was regularly closed over the last year because there simply aren’t enough midwives.

"We desperately need change in the NHS.

"That’s why I’m standing for Parliament.

"The NHS was the envy of the world in 2010 but this is sadly not the case any more.

"We can and must rebuild our NHS to avoid more tragic disasters like these."

Green Party councillor Chloe Turner 

Cllr Chloe Turner, Green Party district and county councillor for Minchinhampton, said: “Obviously the issues raised by Panorama about maternity care in Gloucestershire are very concerning, especially for those who are pregnant and considering their birth care.

"The severe lack of midwives is a national issue, but one that is being felt particularly keenly in our county, and it is putting women and their babies at risk.

“We are lucky in Stroud to have our own Maternity Hospital, and it is fortunate that Stroud has been able to step up to accept low-risk deliveries turned away by Gloucester due to staffing gaps there.

“Low morale and staffing issues in the NHS as a whole, and the poor health outcomes that result, will be one of the enduring legacies of this failing government.”

In a statement, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are deeply sorry that failings in our care led to these tragic deaths and how devastating this has been for those families.

“We are determined to learn and change when things go wrong. As a result of our internal and independent investigations we have made significant improvements to our maternity services in the past three years.

“We have a new and expanded maternity leadership team and have increased the number of midwives and doctors into the service to support women and babies, alongside a range of other safety improvements, including an enhanced risk assessment process and extra daily staffing reviews on wards.

“The significant changes made have been driven by our staff, working closely with families and communities, to ensure everyone has a voice so that we provide the best and safest care.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said they are committed to making sure every mother receives the highest quality maternity care.

And they are backing the NHS with billions in funding, including for more nurses and midwives.

A spokesperson said: “As of October 2023, there are 23,154 full-time equivalent midwives working in NHS trusts and other core NHS organisations in England.

“This is almost 20 per cent more than in 2010.”

An NHS England spokesperson said that while the NHS has made improvements to maternity services over the last decade, there is much more to do to improve the experiences of women and their families across the country.

A spokesperson said: “The NHS will also continue to work closely with trusts to implement the NHS three-year delivery plan for maternity and neonatal services, including recommendations from recent maternity reviews, to ensure safer, more personalised and equitable maternity care for all women, babies and families."

Cheltenham General Hospital’s birthing unit closed temporarily in April 2022 due to a shortage of midwives and is yet to reopen.