Fury over decision to move Barrow maternity services
Last updated at 17:34, Sunday, 03 February 2013
HEALTH chiefs have been left baffled after hospital bosses took a major decision over maternity services in Barrow without speaking to those they are supposed to serve.
Barrow’s GP commissioners are among those taking over responsibility for helping decide what healthcare is available across Cumbria, and paying NHS trusts to provide it.
But they were left “shaken” when the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Furness General Hospital, decided to temporarily transfer Barrow’s consultant-led maternity service and special care baby unit to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
Doctor Geoff Jolliffe, lead GP for Furness, said the commissioners were only told about the move late on Tuesday, despite trust bosses planning to make Barrow’s maternity unit midwifery-led from next Tuesday.
He said: “We were left with six days to try and sort it out.
“It’s been running on staffing problems for a long time, so we don’t understand why it’s different at the moment, and that’s what we need to know.”
UHMBT announced the transfer to the public on Thursday, saying that a staffing crisis had reached a point where the safety of its services could no longer be guaranteed. It means FGH will now only handle routine births.
UHMBT Interim chairman, Sir David Henshaw said his board would be given an update on the situation in two weeks, and bosses have “no desire to keep the service away longer than it needs to be”.
Dr Jolliffe said he and other GPs had spent Thursday in “intense negotiations” with UHMBT, and had asked them to postpone the date of the transfer, but the trust was resolutely against it on the grounds they have no staff to fill the rota.
He said the commissioners asked the trust for an urgent review of the evidence they used to come to the decision.
Cumbria’s GPs have spent months working on a review of UHMBT’s services, in a bid to help the trust save £50m over the next five years and decide what its hospitals should be providing in the future.
The review had, in itself, raised concerns among campaigners who feared it could lead to the permanent downgrading of Barrow’s maternity services.
Throughout the process, UHMBT has said it will be Cumbria’s Clinical Commissioning Group which makes the final decision.
Yet, Dr Jolliffe said: “We’ve had this huge process, and no-one has ever mentioned that there was going to be a sudden critical movement like this.
“Now, we understand the hospital’s position, and if they haven’t got the staff they can’t run the unit, and that might have to be the case.
“But we’re concerned about the process. We haven’t been involved when we should have been, the public haven’t been involved until the last minute, which is wrong, and the staff at FGH didn’t know until Thursday morning.
“We’re concerned that this will lead to distress among staff and anxiety on the patients’ side.”
Had this service change been a permanent one made as part of the review, Dr Jolliffe said, it would take a year to plan and put into place.
He said: “Normally changes like this would take months and months.
“So this really is emergency measures and, if it has to be, it has to be, but we want to make sure of that.”
Furness’ commissioning GPs were due to meet trust managers for an emergency meeting yesterday in a bid to establish if that is the case.
Meanwhile, Dr Jolliffe said, they have reported UHMBT to the regional health authority, which manages the local NHS on behalf of the secretary of state, asking it to intervene.
He said: “They can look at the whole process, and the trust, and ask why they’re doing it.
“Ultimately, they can either say, ‘No, it’s the only safe option, they have to do this’, or they can say to the trust, ‘No, there are other options’.”
Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock, has also been left with more questions than answers after meetings with trust bosses yesterday.
He said UHMBT could offer him no firm plans as to how the ambulance service will deal with the increased demand caused by the transfer, no real evidence that the trust had considered moving the service from Lancaster to Barrow rather than vice versa and no proof of a detailed assessment showing that this really is the only option.
l Evening Mail comment – page 12
First published at 13:51, Sunday, 03 February 2013
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
Has anyone reported them to Monitor as well?
The lack of planning and risk assessments that have gone into this decision is truly shocking.It is absolutely appauling how something like this can be announced and implemented within a week. A detailed risk assessment would take longer than that to carry out! I hope the trust are ready for the court cases against them for negligence that will arise from the families of countless mothers and babies that have been put at risk by this decision.