Mum's joy as hundreds sign her petition

A DETERMINED young mother masterminding a campaign to see Wyre Forest Birth Centre reopened says she has been "overwhelmed" by support.

Elizabeth Bytheway has already collected more than 600 signatures since she started distributing a petition - last Friday - urging chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, John Rostill, to reconsider his decision to close the birth centre.

With 60 petition forms on display in post offices, pubs and banks across the district, she expects the number of signatures to comfortably top the 1,000 mark. Three copies in the birth centre's ante-natal clinic have also been signed by 54 people in three days.

It started as a one-woman campaign by 27-year-old Mrs Bytheway but now people she does not know - as well as friends - are collecting names.

The delighted mother-of-one, of Sutton Road, Kidderminster, said she was passionate about the facility's future because she had received "brilliant" care there after giving birth to her daughter, Charlotte, last August.

"My baby was born in Worcester and, out of the two, I believe Kidderminster is the better and it's all a lot of rubbish what they have been saying about the staff not being caring," she said.

The former auxiliary nurse, who worked on the maternity ward of the old Ronkswood Hospital in Worcester, added she planned to have more children.

Although it is unlikely she would be able give birth at Kidderm-inster, because she had a caesarean, she hoped to receive post-natal care there.

"I've been thinking about doing something since I heard it was going to close but this is totally out of character for me because I normally just bob along but it's just grown and grown," she said.

"I originally wanted 500 signatures and now I've done that I'm not going to stop."

She plans to rally further support by spending today and tomorrow visiting mothers' and toddlers' groups in Kidderminster, Stourport and Cleobury Mortimer and intends to gather in all the petitions by next Thursday.

She is also meeting Wyre Forest MP, Dr Richard Taylor, on Saturday, to discuss her progress.

She has sent copies of a letter expressing her "utter disgust" at the closure of the birth centre to the MP, Mr Rostill, and Wyre Forest Patients Forum.

Her actions follow the announcement in December that post-natal services would cease at the end of this month to enable midwife rotation within the trust - one of 27 recommendations made in a damning report by an independent inquiry team.

The report found that failings in the standard of care at the facility may have contributed to babies' deaths.

A decision is not expected to be made on the unit's long-term future until after a group monitoring the implementation of the inquiry's recommendations has presented its findings in March.

A spokesman for the hospitals trust said it welcomed anything that helped it to understand the needs and wishes of patients, but stressed the centre would not reopen for deliveries until the trust was satisfied all actions outlined in the inquiry had been carried out.

He added the community's view of how services should develop was a fundamental principle of a countywide review of maternity services currently underway and Wyre Forest Primary Care Trust was responsible for commissioning and funding health care services.

He went on: "The PCT is developing, with the Strategic Health Authority, a vision of how to develop maternity services for Wyre Forest and will be consulting with local people to seek their views."