Barrow hospital ward closures, maternity fears and cost cutting discussed during public meeting
Last updated at 11:18, Monday, 11 March 2013
MORE than 350 people turned out to a public meeting tonight to discuss the future of Furness General Hospital, with fears raised over ward closures, cost cutting and the future of maternity services.
The event, held at The Forum in Barrow, was hosted by Thousand Voices campaigners, who fear an ongoing review of services across Morecambe Bay could see Barrow’s maternity unit being downgraded from consultant-led to midwifery-led, dealing with only the most routine of births. The review is being carried out by the Cumbria and Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups, who are set to take over responsibility for deciding what health services are provided in their counties, in conjunction with UHMBT clinicians.
Tonight's meeting was planned following the University Hospital of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust’s recent decision – subsequently reversed – to transfer top-level services and the FGH special care baby unit to Lancaster due to a staffing crisis.
Questions surrounding what happened and what it means for the future were high on the agenda for the evening, but there was a lot more to the meeting than just maternity.
The panel, which included UHMBT chief executive and medical director, Jackie Daniel and George Nasmyth, lead commissioning GP for Furness, Geoff Jolliffe, and Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock, were questioned over a range of fears and rumours surrounding services at FGH.
Other concerns raised included the suggested closure of three wards, including one medical, one surgical and gynaecology, previously reported by the Evening Mail.
Challenged by several members of staff in the audience, Ms Daniel was forced to admit that the amount of money the trust needs to save means some beds must go. UHMBT needs to save £50m over the next five years and the ongoing service review will be a major part of its efforts to do that. Ms Daniel said any bed cuts would be done with as little effect on permanent employees' job security as possible, especially as the trust is currently spending too much on locum and agency staff, and that more information would be shared with the workforce next week.
Other issues raised by the newspaper over recent months and brought back to the public’s attention at the meeting included the proposed removal of specialist vascular services from UHMBT, the suggested shift from freshly cooked to frozen meals for patients at FGH and the transferral of some urology services to Kendal.
And UHMBT bosses were challenged over the trust’s spending on locum staff and higher management at a time when cost cutting has been cited as the reason for some of the tough decisions facing health chiefs.
Dr Jolliffe was quick to add reassurance to those present when one member of staff on the FGH oncology ward expressed fears over rumours it was to close and deal only with outpatients.
With cancer possibly the greatest challenge facing the area, Dr Jolliffe said, he would like to see Furness become a centre of excellence for treatment.
FGH staff received several comments of praise throughout the meeting, members of the public citing their own excellent experiences in the hospital.
Bringing the evening to a close, meeting chairwoman and Thousand Voices organiser, Mandy Telford, thanked the panel again for attending and sharing honest answers with the room.
She said: “I’m an optimist and I like to think people will listen, but maybe people will only listen if we shout loud enough.”
First published at 20:40, Thursday, 07 March 2013
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
I dont understand a hospital should consist of every need u woudn't have a hospital without an A&E so why would it be better for the public to close down a unit that endangers the lives of new mums and babies its ridiculous im expecting my second child and im worried what is going to happen when im due, these closures are only going to cause more deaths how does that make sense!!!! Not to mention closure to cancer treatment one of the biggest killers out there!!!! UNBELIEVABLE we dont have a say they'll do what they want anyway sickening!!!!!
I attended this meeting & I must say it was very well organised.
However the agenda of the meeting is a very real issue which is going to have a devastating effect on us all & I for one do not agree any savings need to be made because of what they are-cutbacks!
When a woman gives birth the mother-to-be needs all the medical, physical & mental help she can get & to have her transfered in an ambulance for a 90 minute journey will be hell on earth for her!
Not only that the close reletives of the mother-to-be have to travel individually & not every one can drive-& rail fares are out of control!!!!
UHMBT should employ more midwives & consultants not cutbacks.
There was also the topic of frozen foods being brought in in place of meals cooked on site by catering staff which is yet another attack upon the staff & when a patient is in recovery mode after an operation or accident he or she needs the best of nutritional food-not frozen stuff which is full of salt, emulsifiers & Es'.
Some one did comment that there was only 350 there as opposed to a "thousand voices", well the attendance that was did represent a lot of people that are rightly worried about these attacks & not every one can make it for various reasons.....
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