Thursday, 14 January 2010

Fury as Solihull maternity downgraded

MATERNITY services have been downgraded at Solihull Hospital - before a public consultation starts.

Health chiefs said the move to take away ‘high risk’ births was a temporary measure and in the interests of safety. A midwife-led unit only will stay at the hospital.

It means the majority of mums who would otherwise give birth at Solihull will have to go to hospitals including Heartlands at Bordesley Green and Good Hope, Sutton Coldfield.

Early discussions on the plans took place last year to the outrage of many residents, postponing a formal consultation. But bosses have now gone ahead with the move without public consultation.

Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust bosses now say a full consultation will take place later this year.

But Solihull MP Lorely Burt slammed the move as a “fait accomplis”.

She said: “I am deeply disappointed that the trust has taken pre-emptive action to downgrade the maternity unit before any consultation has taken place.”

The Liberal Democrat MP said: “The trust will do the down-grading anyway and get its way with no say from the angry residents of Solihull.

“To say the consultation will have any meaning after the staff and operational changes have taken place is, in my view, empty rhetoric.”

She pledged to write to the secretary of state for health Andy Burnham MP “to complain about this state of affairs and to ask him to intervene”.

And Conservative Meriden MP Caroline Spelman the news is ‘most regrettable’.

She said: “It is a decision weighted towards the organisation rather than the patients it serves and will deny the women of Solihull borough a choice.

“It is our NHS and we have a right to have our views as users of the service taken into account.

“Taxpayers have funded the building and running of the maternity unit - they have a right to be heard.”

Tory Solihull MP hopeful Maggie Throup said in a press release: “I am utterly dismayed at the total disregard for public opinion.” She urged people to join a Facebook campaign.

In a statement, the trust said health professionals said Solihull “cannot continue as it is at the moment”.

This is because it “does not meet contemporary best practice standards particularly for resuscitation of newborns”.

Bosses last year said teams were ‘stretched’ and there are not enough specialist doctors.

It said today in a statement: “We all know that it is easy to make changes after an incident has occurred.

“What is more challenging but is the right thing to do is to make changes now to ensure the service is as safe as possible to avoid any preventable risk to a mother or her baby.”

It goes on: “In the interim and as a temporary change purely to make the service as safe as possible, Solihull Hospital will continue to provide midwifery services for low risk births through a midwifery-led unit.

“More complicated births supervised by obstetricians will be booked at Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital or another nearby hospital according to the mother’s choice.”

Trust chief executive Dr Mark Goldman said he was committed to a ‘full and open dialogue with Solihull residents’.

Claire Molloy, chief executive of Solihull Care Trust, which decides where NHS cash is spent for borough residents, said: “It is unfortunate that change has to take place before a formal consultation has taken place.

“However, it is important to remember that these are interim changes and the care trust is committed to working with local people – particularly women and their families – so that they have an input in developing a long term solution for maternity care in Solihull.”

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