September 26th, 2016

Redditch’s top doctor calls on health trust to reverse maternity unit closure

Redditch’s top doctor calls on health trust to reverse maternity unit closure Redditch’s top doctor calls on health trust to reverse maternity unit closure
Dr Jonathan Wells, who is helping to lead the project for Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group.

REDDITCH’S top GP has called on the local health trust to reverse its closure of the Alexandra Hospital’s maternity/obstetrics unit as soon as possible.

Dr Jonathan Wells, three of whose children were born at the Alex, said: “Even though I knew services have been under threat, I was still shocked at the unexpected news that obstetrics at the Alexandra was to undergo emergency closure on a temporary basis.

“All efforts must be made to reverse this change as soon as possible.”

And he warned that there was now “a very significant concern that the ‘temporary emergency service change’ will not be reversed.”

Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), under the chairmanship of Dr Wells, had previously called for six key conditions to be met in the event of the health trust centralising maternity and overnight child cases in the county.

These were:

1) Public consultation on the clinical and financial sustainability of the model.

2) Public consultation on a free-standing midwife-led unit for low risk births.

3) Closure of the Alex’s obstetrics unit would not take place until there was adequate capacity elsewhere, so that women could have a choice of place of delivery.

4) The provision of a seven day maternity assessment and day case unit at the Alex.

5) A clear expectation that a significant sum would be required to provide capacity for the changes.

6) That public transport issues would be addressed.

None of these were met by the trust when it announced last Friday – at 5.15pm – that the maternity unit at the Alex would close on Thursday, November 5 with all services transferring to Worcestershirre Royal Hospital on the grounds of clinical safety.

Meanwhile Birmingham Women’s Hospital has announced that it has no spare capacity while Warwick Hospital has only 300 places per year.

“Given the importance of the Alexandra, serving a population of 200,000, including significant areas of deprivation, it is only right that full public consultation takes place to prior to permanent changes being made,” said Dr Wells.

“For these reasons the NHS must make every effort to reinstate obstetrics services at the Alexandra Hospital, and proper due process must occur, including a wider review of maternity capacity across the West Midlands.”

Meanwhile health chiefs have acknowledged that their decision to close the Alex maternity unit, which they insist is on a temporary basis, has caused ‘understandable anxiety’.

“The fragility of some of our services have been trailed for some time and the fact that we have reached this tipping point should not come as a surprise,” interim chief executive Chris Tidman told a health board meeting on Wednesday.

And he said the decision would not be reviewed until February 2016 and only then if they had the specialist staff in place to re-launch the service in Redditch.

“It’s far more preferable to take this decision now and have the debate so that all the assurances are put in place, for example over parking and public transport.”

He described the closure of the maternity unit as an emergency decision, taken due to staff shortages, but said it had been taken in a planned way and that the matter would go out to public consultation ‘and addressed properly’.

He insisted that Worcestershire Royal did have the capacity to cope with the extra demand and that he was confident ‘they could make this work’.

The trust has set up a hotline for anxious patients while maternity staff in Redditch will be expected to transfer to Worcester. Health chief said a shuttle bus would be laid on for those facing transport difficulties.