By Emma Elgee

BBC News

Charlotte PidgeonImage source, Charlotte Pidgeon

Image caption,

“It’s about choice really,” Charlotte Pidgeon says

A woman has started a petition to reinstate community and home births in the Bath area.

Earlier this year the Royal United Hospital NHS Foundation Trust took the decision to temporarily suspend the service due to staff shortages.

Charlotte Pidgeon, 36, from Frome said it had had a “devastating” impact on expecting families.

The Trust said it was “very sorry” and that staffing levels should improve in the autumn.

It explained the service could be reinstated in late September and that it was working hard to recruit midwives and staff.

Ms Pidgeon, 36 helps run Frome Baby Connections, a support group for new mothers.

She said she hoped the petition, which has close to 500 signatures, raises awareness about how vital the service is to mothers.

She said: “It’s about choice really.

“People only feel empowered if they’ve been given a choice. If you have been forced into something, its not your choice and not ideal.

“Many women wouldn’t want to have their baby at a hospital.”

She added that some mothers might face difficulty travelling to the Royal United Hospital from rural locations if they were in labour.

Ms Pidgeon added: “I know the RUH are trying to do all they can, we’re not going to be able to solve the staffing issues overnight but its important that in their future planning they know 100% that the community cares it’s shut.”

The petition states: “We understand the pressure the service is under but the impact of the closures on new families and babies is devastating and should not be underestimated.”

Sarah Merritt, RUH Director of Midwifery & Deputy Chief Nurse said she was “very sorry for any disappointment” about the temporary closure.

In a statement she said: “The situation at the RUH reflects the local and national position but we have a comprehensive plan to support recruitment and retention in our midwifery service in the short and the long term.

“Our staffing position will improve significantly in the autumn when we are joined by our newly qualified midwives as well as a number of experienced midwives who have been recently recruited.

“This will support our plans to reinstate our community births and we are very much looking forward to welcoming them.”

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