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Maternity cuts hit Hewitt's pledge on birthing choice

A Government pledge to provide expectant mothers with 'a full range of birthing choices' has provoked uproar after reports emerged of swingeing cuts in maternity services.

Pulse has discovered cash-strapped trusts across the country are cutting back services and mothers in labour are being forced to travel to distant hospitals by last-minute ward closures.

It exposes as a pipe dream Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt's pledge that mothers would have the option of home births with 'a midwife they know and trust to care for them'.

In a number of areas, wards have closed for hours at a time with GPs only informed by email. Pulse understands some maternity units were last year closed for more than 300 hours.

Dr Olivia Hum, a GP locum working in Brighton and Worthing, said: 'I'm 16 weeks' pregnant and terrified I won't be able to find anywhere to give birth. The "choice" to have a home birth is not my number one concern – just an open, staffed maternity unit within two hours' drive from home.'

Maternity services were being cut in 32 per cent of areas surveyed by Pulse.

Dr Trefor Roscoe, a GP in Sheffield and GPC representative for South Yorkshire, said:

'It appears to be happening all over. If this continues you'll have births in ambulances and all sorts of potential disasters.'

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