A PETITION has been launched to 'save' Kendal's maternity unit.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has started a petition after it was announced birthing services at Helme Chase Maternity Unit at Westmorland General Hospital will be suspended for the next six months.

The midwife-led unit supports approximately two births per month and has been experiencing significant staffing issues over recent months.

This means that any mothers in the South Lakes wishing to give birth at a hospital will have to travel to either Barrow or Lancaster.

Mr Farron's petition calls on the Conservative Government to give Morecambe Bay Trust 'the money and resources to properly staff Helme Chase so we can save our local maternity ward from permanent closure and give the unit a new lease of life after years of underinvestment'.

"I am extremely worried that this six-month suspension will not only impact local mums in the near future, but it could also pave the way for Helme Chase to be closed for good," he said.

“It is also disappointing that the Trust have given just 12 hours notice before suspending birth services.

“This is a very personal campaign for me – three of my children were born at Helme Chase. This is a very special place for so many parents in our area.

“The Government must provide a package to help the Trust recruit and retain the staff they need so that Helme Chase can not only survive but thrive.

“We must come together as a community to demand that Helme Chase is saved from permanent closure.”

Sue Stansfield, Interim Director of Midwifery, UHMBT, said: “This period will allow us to offer safe home birthing and birth services at our other two units, whilst working with maternity teams to review the way we use our colleagues across the Trust. The aim of this will be to develop a new way of working that will ensure we offer a safe and high-quality service to our local communities, whilst also supporting and developing our teams. 

“Even though birth numbers at Helme Chase are low, we appreciate that it will impact a small number of women and pregnant people that might have chosen to give birth in the unit. We are contacting all individuals who may be impacted directly to discuss their choices with them."

Last month, this publication reported that Jane Martin, a 33-year-old postwoman from Kendal, gave birth to her daughter at the A590. She said the temporary closure of the Helme Chase maternity ward in March was handled ‘terribly’.

At that time, birth services were temporarily closed from March 8 for four weeks to carry out planned essential maintenance works to the maternity ward's nearby theatres department.

Jane wanted to give birth at Helme Chase however the due date was just before the ward was going to close but her baby was late. She had to choose between Lancaster or Barrow. She ended up choosing Barrow but went into labour on the drive to the hospital and gave birth on the side of the A590.

Mr Farron's petition can be signed here.