‘Our children would have died without Pilgrim Hospital’s neonatal unit’

Members of the SNAPPS group with their children, who were all born premature and required neonatal treatment. From left: Emma Wilcock with daughter Mya, Alison Marriott with daughter Naomi and Rochelle King with son Hudson.
Members of the SNAPPS group with their children, who were all born premature and required neonatal treatment. From left: Emma Wilcock with daughter Mya, Alison Marriott with daughter Naomi and Rochelle King with son Hudson.

Mothers of premature babies and those who have had to use the neonatal unit at Pilgrim Hospital have called on health bosses not to relocate it to another site.

The Support for Neonates and Parents and Preemies (SNAPPS) group of Boston fear any move to relocate services in other hospitals such as Lincoln could lead to a rise in the number of premature baby deaths, as well as create more pressures and health concerns for the children and expectant mothers.

We know how lucky we are to have Pilgrim. At the end of the day, they saved our babies lives.

Parent lead for SNAPPS Emma Wilcock

It follows Lincolnshire Health and Care’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan released last Monday.

In it there are a series of options for Pilgrim’s maternity services, including a single neonatal team across Lincoln and Boston with all neonatal services centred on Lincoln and a single maternity team across Boston and Lincoln, with a consultant-led obstetrics service in Lincoln and midwifery-led units on both sites.

Further options include centralising consultant-led obstetrics and maternity units at Lincoln or developing a standalone maternity unit in Boston and relocating obstetrics services to Lincoln.

Parent lead for SNAPPS Emma Wilcock told the Standard: “If our babies had not been at Pilgrim they would have died.”

She added: “We know how lucky we are to have Pilgrim.

“At the end of the day, they saved our babies lives.”

When her daughter Mya was born her lungs collapsed and she stopped breathing.

“My husband said I don’t think she’s breathing properly,” she said. “The midwife did something and suddenly there were three consultants on neonatal within seconds.”

Mya was taken straight up to neonatal, intubated and made stable.

“To come to and realise what had happened, was scary and upsetting. I thought was it something I had done.”

Emma had previously had three babies born normally, including one who later had to spend some time in neonatal after the birth.

Figures from ULHT show that for the financial year 2015-16, of the 450 children admitted to neonatal, 38 were born at 30 weeks or below.

Pilgrim Hospital does not usually take babies under 30 weeks which means 26 babies of those babies were ‘stabilised’ before being transferred elsewhere.

The group argues that parents are already under a lot of stress, not just from the pregnancy itself but also social and environmental factors. These can include travel arrangements, time off work when the mother is in hospital and financial difficulties.

They say that asking people to travel or stay further away from home could add to those worries.

Member and campaigner for the SOS Pilgrim campaign organised by Boston Focus Group, Alison Marriott said: “It’s coming across as this is just a few very different births, but if they did take all the consultant-led and neonatal it would bring into play a lot more women that would be classed as high risk.”

LHAC says its plans focus on getting to know expectant mothers earlier in the pregnancy process and diagnosing earlier whether there are going to be any complications.

Chief nurse at Lincolnshire East Clinical Commissioning Group Tracy Pilcher said: “We want to provide more choice to women about the place and type of birth they want, and we are looking at offering women a range of options for their births including a consultant-led service, midwife-led services (which we don’t offer at the moment) and home births.

“The way we provide services for mothers, babies and children in the county needs to change and we need to ensure services are safe.

“No decisions have been made yet and next year we will be putting forward proposals likely to include options to centralise some elements of maternity and children’s services, as well as an option to keep consultant-led births on two hospital sites.

“It is likely that emergency children’s surgery will need to move to a single hospital site, however, it is important to emphasise that options have not yet been agreed and we will need to test them with clinical experts before we consult formally with the public.”