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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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St John Ambulance to lend hand to North West ambulance service

A CHARITY is set to support the ambulance service as it adjusts to cope with changes to critical care provided for premature babies, a leading doctor has revealed.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Furness General Hospital, announced in December it was changing the admission cut-off point of Barrow’s special care baby unit.

As of spring 2013, it said, FGH SCBU would look after babies born from 34 weeks into pregnancy, rather than 32. The move means an extra 12 to 20 infants may need to be transferred to other hospitals annually.

Yesterday Geoff Jolliffe, lead GP for Furness, explained how plans had been put in place for this following the recent maternity crisis.

He said: “St John Ambulance have come up trumps with an ambulance to support the service because there’s still going to be extra transfers. It’s a move that’s been mooted for a long time, it has just come forward, and that will relieve the pressure on Barrow.”

Of how St John will help, he said: “They will pick up the low-risk, minor cases ambulance sometimes do, to release ambulances to do the higher level stuff.

“It will be the ambulance crews who will do the maternity transfers, unless of course it’s a very low-level transfer.

“If it’s moving a mother and her baby back from Lancaster and there’s no medical emergency, they might do something like that.”

Dr Jolliffe was speaking after six days of uncertainty surrounding FGH maternity.

UHMBT yesterday confirmed a temporary transfer of Barrow’s consultant-led service and SCBU to Lancaster, announced last Thursday, had been called off.

The trust had said it had no other choice because of a staffing crisis but, Dr Jolliffe explained, the NHS regional authority intervened to stop the move.

The GP, who is part of the commissioning group set to take over responsibility for deciding how healthcare is provided in Cumbria, said: “The region effectively took control of the situation by declaring it an ‘incident’, which basically means they take over the decision-making process, they take authority, they take the risk, they deal with everything.

“Basically, they’ve gone round hospitals in the North of England and said: ‘You have to release staff if you can’.”

Dr Jolliffe said the regional authority would not step down until the trust had plans in place for sustaining safe staffing levels, preventing more scares of this kind in the near future.

He said this would include training people to fill the roles they had struggled to, aiming to bring staff back from sickness and planning better for situations of this kind.

In a statement, Derek Cartwright, acting director of operations with the North West Ambulance Service, said: “Like other ambulance trusts throughout the country we use a variety of resources to deliver our service. This includes working with well trained and expert crews from organisations such as mountain rescue teams and St John Ambulance.

“We have worked with St John Ambulance for many years and we call upon them in times of exceptional or high 999 demand and when, as in this case, we need temporary additional resource support.

“We are personally assured that they are capable of delivering what is asked of them which is to provide back-up to our existing resources in the Barrow in Furness area.”

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