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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Snow chaos ‘shows dangers of downgrading Barrow maternity unit’

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect Barrow’s maternity services say Friday’s road chaos caused by heavy snow has highlighted the dangers of any downgrading of the unit.

The snow left hundreds of drivers stranded on the A590 for several hours, with one family taking 10 hours to get from Barrow to Bolton.

The Thousand Voices Campaign is attempting to get 1,000 people to back a campaign against downgrading Furness General Hospital’s maternity unit.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs FGH, is reviewing all its services, and will launch a public consultation this year.

Campaigners fear Barrow could lose its consultant-led maternity unit in the review – meaning any complications in labour would require mums-to-be being transferred to Lancaster.

Mandy Telford, who is leading the campaign, said the issues on the A590 highlighted the need to retain services.

She said: “On Friday night it was taking more than six hours to get along the A590 in the snow – imagine an ambulance with a mum in labour trying to get through that carnage. Taking the consultants away from FGH maternity unit would put mums and babies at risk.’’

Expectant mum Laura Reid, of Newton, said: “On Friday night the A590 was impassable due to the snow.

“I wouldn’t want to be the mum needing consultant care while giving birth and being stuck in an ambulance on the road due to bad weather.”

Bay Search and Rescue Teams helped rescue stranded drivers – some of whom were stranded for around five hours as heavy snow caused chaos on the A590 at Lindale.

Snow ploughs and gritters were unable to cope with the volume of snow that fell and at one point emergency services reported as many as 200 cars stuck on Lindale Hill.

One driver, Sally Hunter, told the Evening Mail she had set off from Barrow at 5pm with her two children, 11 and 16, and two dogs, but became stuck on the hill when a lorry jack-knifed and blocked the road.

She described how local farmers had given out hot drinks to stranded motorists and it had eventually taken 10 hours to complete their journey to Bolton once the road was cleared.

Elsewhere, there were cars stuck on the A592 near the Beech Hill Hotel, Windermere, and Greystone Lane in Dalton was one of many other local routes that became blocked.

The weather also played havoc with sporting fixtures at the weekend, with Barrow AFC’s FA Trophy tie at home to Gateshead one of many games called off.

A spokesman for Cumbria County Council said: “When you get heavy snow fall of that severity gritting the roads has little effect.

“When there is snow of that level everyone has to hunker down and wait for it to dissipate.”

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