‘Keep vital maternity services open’ say RCM

on 12 March 2024

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has called on local commissioners to rethink plans to close vital maternity and neonatal services at the Royal Free Hospital or the Whittington Hospital in North London. Under the current plans, one of the two maternity and services would close.

The RCM along with midwives and maternity staff has been one of the leading forces campaigning to keep these services open, joining regular demonstrations outside the Royal Free Hospital. Now the RCM is responding to the Start Well consultation and is calling on its members, all those that work in maternity services, those that use maternity services and their families to respond with a resounding ‘no’ to the proposals while there is still time.

Commenting on the potential closure Sean O’Sullivan, Head of Health and Social Policy at the RCM, said:

“At a time when maternity services across the UK are more stretched than ever its madness to contemplate closing either of these maternity units. Both the Whittington and the Royal Free serve thousands of pregnant women and new mothers every year and are badly needed. We are not calling for the status quo. What we want to see is better, higher quality and safer services and this should require an upgrade of services – not their closure. It also means having enough maternity units and midwives to cover the demand.”

“It is clear that if these changes go ahead, they will have a significant impact on the care of women, not just at the Royal Free and Whittington but across north London. We know that for some women depending on their age and life situations their pregnancy isn’t straight forward. Closing maternity and neonatal services at either site could be disastrous for women with the highest risk pregnancies. We also know that women from Asian and Black backgrounds and socially deprived areas are more likely to experience poor outcomes. In all of these circumstances, having good, tailored care is hugely important.”

The RCM says the support in the local community from not only women and their families, but the wider public has shown how crucial these maternity service are. The Royal Free Hospital has a long history and expertise of providing specialist maternal medicine and intrapartum services. There is a danger if these services close that the vital knowledge the staff have would be lost. Similarly, the Whittington Hospital services a particularly diverse community many of whom vitally need these services.

The consultation is open until Sunday 17 March 2024 at 11.59pm, and you can respond here.

The RCM is protesting this week outside the Royal Free Hospital on:

  • Wednesday 13th March 12-2pm
  • Friday 15th March 12-2pm