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Thursday, 02 July 2015

Barrow maternity services move to go ahead, hospital trust confirms

The trust responsible for running Furness General Hospital has confirmed that plans to move the consultant-led maternity service and special care baby unit out of Barrow will still go ahead from tomorrow.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust (UHMBT) said today that plans announced last week to transfer the services to Lancaster remain firmly in place.

That is despite opposition from the county's commissioning GPs, Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock, and hospital staff unions, plus a huge backlash from the public. Hundreds of people have commented on the Evening Mail website, Facebook and Twitter pages over the issue, and a public meeting held on Friday night saw 250 people turn out to show their concerns.

It had been hoped that intervention from these parties and ongoing discussions with the trust could lead to the move being stalled or called off. But the trust today said that was unlikely to happen. 

It was announced on Thursday that Furness General Hospital's maternity services will be midwifery-led from tomorrow, while bosses work to solve a major staffing crisis which has led to safety concerns at the hospital.

Sir David Henshaw is interim chairman of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs FGH.

He said the trust had seen a "marked increase" in maternity sickness levels since the escalation of an ongoing police investigation into the deaths of mothers and babies in the Barrow unit.

He said: “We are concerned that sickness levels in the Special Care Baby Unit and maternity services are nearing levels where we would have further concern over the future safety of the service at Furness General Hospital.

"Over the past eight weeks, we have been filling shifts with the goodwill of existing and agency staff but the situation has now risen to a level where this is not enough to ensure safe staffing levels.

“Following advice from its medical director and executive chief nurse, the trust board has approved plans to take immediate action to ensure the continued safety of its SCBU and maternity services at FGH and the women and babies it serves.

"The safety of everyone who uses our hospitals is a priority for the new trust board at Morecambe Bay.

"As from 9am, Tuesday 5 February 2013, all SCBU services and consultant led maternity services will be temporarily transferring from FGH to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI).

“Therefore as of February 5 , we will maintain a safe, midwifery led service at FGH.

"We have no desire to keep the service away longer than it needs to be and are aiming for the service to return as soon as safe, sustainable staffing levels can be achieved.

However, it would be wrong of me to guarantee the exact timings as there are many factors outside of our control such as resolving the sickness absence levels.

"The trust board has instructed the medical director and executive chief nurse to report back in two weeks with a plan for the return of these services to FGH.”

The news comes following an announcement from hospital bosses in November, that the FGH SCBU would be merged into its maternity ward in spring 2013.

Plans were also revealed to change the unit’s admission cut-off point – affecting which babies SCBU will look after – from those born 32 weeks into pregnancy to those who reach 34 weeks gestation.

Jackie Daniel, Chief Executive, UHMBT said: “Clinicians had raised concerns regarding the ability to safely staff the SCBU at FGH.

However, this has now been overtaken by the significant, unsustainable levels of sickness absence.

“We will continue to work hard, together with the wider NHS to recruit more midwives and neonatal nurses. We have also liaised with other specialist and regional providers to second staff, but this has not yet proved successful.”

The Trust will be speaking directly to women who are due to give birth in the near future and those who already have planned dates for delivery or induction of labour in the coming days.

All pregnant women in the area will be contacted with regards to their ongoing antenatal care and also in relation to the plans for the birth
of their baby.

In the meantime, if any women have concerns or require further information they can call 0800 028 2340 between 8am and 10pm, Monday to Friday, and between 8am and 7pm, Saturday and Sundays.

If pregnant women are in need of urgent advice in relation to their own or their unborn baby’s health or if they suspect they are in labour, they should contact the delivery suite directly using the numbers they have already been given.

In any other emergency, they should dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.


Have your say

I do not see a problem, hopefully it may cut the amount of young girls pushing prams in Barrow...I doubt it!

Posted by Jackie on 4 February 2013 at 18:49

I hope to see the ward open again when it is safe

Posted by Linda on 4 February 2013 at 16:32

View all 4 comments on this article

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