Following the successful appeal hearing last week a full judicial review will be granted into the decision to downgrade maternity care at Horton General Hospital in Oxfordshire from a consultant to a midwifery-led centre. 

With the fight for consultant-led care set to continue it is worth taking a moment to ask what difference the downgrade makes to expectant mothers and their families?   

Pregnancies are routinely categorised as high or low risk according to factors such as expectant mother's medical history, her health and any specific risks that may apply to that pregnancy (e.g. multiple pregnancies). Care for those with low risk pregnancies is usually midwife-led, whilst those expectant mother's with risk factors for potential complications are likely to be placed under the care of a consultant.  

The downgrading of Horton Hospital means that those categorised as high risk are required to travel to consultant-led centres, typically in Oxford, both for antenatal appointments and to give birth. This increases the likely travel time which at best creates inconvenience for those affected as they have to travel further for routine appointments, but at worst could cause a delay in accessing medical care with potentially serious implications for both mother and child. 

For many expectant mothers who are considered low risk the downgrade will not necessarily impact on the care they receive. It is normal for these pregnancies and deliveries to be handled by midwifes without consultant involvement. However, if and when complications do arise, for example if labour fails to progress or if the unborn child is in distress, these women would need to be transported by ambulance to a consultant-led centre before urgent medical intervention (such as a caesarean section) could take place. 

As a clinical negligence solicitors with considerable experience in birth injury claims we are sadly all too aware of how important timely medical intervention can when complications arise or the delivery does not progress as expected. In circumstances such as this where even a few minutes can make a substantial difference to the outcome for mother and child, it is right that the implications are fully considered and that the decision making process stands up to scrutiny. 

If you are concerned about the care that you, or a family member, have received during pregnancy, labour or following delivery, please contact Catherine Bell  (Catherine.bell@freeths.co.uk, 01865 781140) for a free, confidential, discussion about your options.