I was born in the small Lancashire town of Heywood. With Bury and Rochdale as its very near neighbours and the huge city of Manchester just a few miles away, it’s fair to say that my home town is struggling to hang on to its identity.
But I’m proud to call Heywood my birth town and no matter how far the conurbations of neighbouring towns and cities reach out, I’ll always be a Heywood lad and I’ll be able to prove it with my birth certificate.
I’ve lived in Hartlepool for almost 20 years now and that’s more than long enough for me to know that Hartlepudlians are just as proud of their home town as I am of mine. Sadly, recent changes in maternity services in the area mean that the number of children actually born in the borough of Hartlepool has dropped dramatically.
Whilst it’s still possible for a woman to have a baby at the town’s General Hospital in Holdforth Road, it’s becoming an increasingly rare event because of the clinical expertise that has been shifted from the General to North Tees in Stockton.
The situation as it stands is that mums-to-be who choose Hartlepool to have their baby will be made aware that the service is midwife led. Any complications with the birth will mean a blues and twos transfer to North Tees.
I have absolutely no doubt that the excellent midwives and other staff on the Hartlepool maternity unit are totally committed to giving the best experience and care to their patients. But given even a tiny risk to consider, the vast majority of expectant women will want to eliminate that risk and will choose to have their baby at North Tees where there are gynaecologists, back-up and an incredible range of specialist equipment on hand.
This situation may ensure that women are getting the very best care, but it’s definitely not ideal. The ideal situation would be for Hartlepool parents to have children who were delivered in their home town hospital - true Hartlepool babies.
Sadly, a national shortage of gynaecologists, obstetricians and even junior doctors means that this ideal situation is becoming increasingly difficult. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fight for it. I like the idea of future generations who were truly ‘born in Hartlepool’ and in the coming months and years I’ll be doing my very best to push North Tees and Hartlepool Trust in that direction.
l I was totally blown away last week when I went to Bishop Auckland with people fromThe Rift House community to see the magnificent spectacle of Kynren.
Managing to cram 2,000 years of English history into a 90-minute spectacular is some feat but the masterminds who have brought this show to our area have done that with some real flair.
The North East can be justifiably proud to have a world class event in our midst.