Epsom and St Helier Hospitals Trust are investing more than £45,000 in a maternity unit that faced closure just under a year ago, but health campaigners still fear for the long-term future of the service.

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The trust announced this week that two midwives at the hospitals successfully applied for £46,282 in funding from the Burdett Trust Maternity and Childhood Obesity Empowerment Programme.

The hospitals care for about 5,000 pregnant women every year, 20 per cent of whom have a body mass index of 30 and above, and so are categorised as clinically obese.

The funding will go towards helping these women by providing them with informational leaflets on diet and lifestyle and hiring Slimming World to lead exercise classes.

But health campaigners in Keep Our St Helier Hospitals (KOSHH) believe the fund will soon run out and is insufficient given the running costs of the hospital.

They also fear that fostering relationships with private companies like Slimming World sets a worrying precedent of privatisation.

Georgia Lewis for KOSHH said: “While we congratulate the staff at St Helier on obtaining £46,000 from the Burdett Trust, the deal raises more questions than it answers.

“We would like to know how long the £46,000 is expected to last and why our local maternity services are now relying on charities for funding. Where is the long-term investment for maternity care in our local area?

“Why is offering 12 weeks free membership to Slimming World part of this deal when the hospital already has an excellent weight management clinic for pregnant women? Is St Helier Hospital now a de facto sales agent for Slimming World?

“We'd like to see a copy of any contracts surrounding this £46,000 funding. KOSHH campaigners are not at all calm about the long-term future of maternity services at the Epsom-St Helier Trust if relying on charities is going to become the norm.”

Katherina Gross-Gibbs, a specialist midwife, said: “We have always been incredibly proud of the service we offer, but the team and I felt that there was a need – and an opportunity – to expand the service and increase the number of women we are able to help.”

Senior midwife Nicola Young said: “Previously, we were not able to offer women with a BMI of 30-35 any extra health input.

“Now, thanks to the money we have secured, they will be offered pedometers, sponsored exercise classes and comprehensive diet and lifestyle information leaflets.”