Breast-feeding fund shortages in Northamptonshire

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MUMS in Northamptonshire get 40 per cent less funding for breast-feeding support services than Oxfordshire.

NHS bosses have revealed they spent £60,000 last year on encouraging new mums to breast-feed and therefore making their babies more healthy in the long term, and will outlay the same amount this year.

The total will not include funds for a scrapped service where mums teach others the vital skill, or the popular drop-in Northampton Baby Cafe in Wellington Street, which was forced to close last month.

NHS Oxfordshire has revealed it spends £100,000 a year in support for its similar-sized population, which includes eight baby cafes.

It also boasts a peer support programme and a scheme targeting groups of mothers who would not normally breast-feed, offering 18 hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week support for the fortnight after they give birth.

Kim Watts, a campaigning mum who used to use the Northampton Baby Cafe, said: “It just shows the low regard in which NHS Northamptonshire holds breast-feeding. Even the money they have budgeted has not been set allocated yet. I’m about to have another baby and I’m not aware of any specialist support to fill the gap.”

NHS Northamptonshire said the peer support service, called Mum2Mum, was a trial scheme “subject to an evaluation” and, as such, will end on April 30.

It said the Baby Café provided “a consistent high standard of breast-feeding support to both mothers and health professionals, and “has undoubtedly enabled many mothers to continue breast-feeding for longer”.

However, it claims the cafe model “incurs a cost which means that continued funding is always under review.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Northamptonshire added: “Our public health budgets have not yet been finalised by Government, so no decision has been made about the funding of breast-feeding services for 2012-13. NHS and other statutory budgets are under continued pressure and all services currently funded need to be cost-effective to attract ongoing funding.

“We are meeting local providers including Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Action for Children and Baby Ways) to discuss how we can commission breastfeeding support in 2012/13. No decisions have been made.”