Public transport 'not a factor' in decision over Pontefract Hospital maternity unit

The future of Pontefract Hospital's maternity is in doubt amid claims from the local NHS trust it is underused.
The future of Pontefract Hospital's maternity is in doubt amid claims from the local NHS trust it is underused.

People's access to public transport is not being considered as a factor in whether or not to keep a maternity unit at Pontefract Hospital open.

The future of the Friarwood Birth Centre at the hospital is currently under review, after health bosses said it was underused.

An invitation for the public to comment on the prospect of its closure has prompted nearly 800 replies to Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who will make their final recommendation on the decision later this year.

The CCG specifically wanted to hear from people in the area who'd recently had a baby or were likely to have one in the future.

If the unit is shut, mums-to-be in the Five Towns and south-east of the Wakefield district will have to travel to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield to have their babies, or alternatively give birth at home.

Concerns have been raised previously by local councillors about that idea because of poor public transport links between the city and other parts of the district.

But speaking about the public's responses at a health scrutiny committee on Thursday, the CCG's Ruth Unwin said: "Significantly there was a majority of people - 90 per cent - who said that they'd travel by private car to give birth.

"What that tells us is that public transport is probably not something we have to concern ourselves with at this stage."

But Wakefield East councillor Ros Lund suggested that the statistic was influenced by poor bus and train services.

Coun Lund, who also expressed fears that closing the unit could result in an overload of demand at Pinderfields, said: "Is that not because options other than cars are extremely difficult to access?

"It is a problem here."

In response, Mrs Unwin said: "I think because we're talking about the choices people would make to get to hospital here, it's fair to say they wouldn't rely on public transport to get them there."

Any recommendation to close the maternity unit will result in a further public consultation before a final decision takes effect.

Local Democracy Reporting Service