Shropshire health bosses ‘confident’ over plans for shake-up of maternity services
Health commissioners say they are confident plans for the future of Shropshire's maternity services will enter the next stage of the process without any difficulties.
Bosses from Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group revealed earlier this week that they had been unexpectedly told NHS England must now give the go-ahead for a public consultation to begin.
They will have to submit a pre-consultation business case for approval.
Dr Jessica Sokolov, a GP and clinical director of women’s and children’s services, told a recent meeting of Shropshire CCG that there was no intention of it taking as long as the Future Fit approval process.
She said: "We have stressed to them there's an ongoing service delivery issue.
"I'm confident this proposal will go through the NHS assurance process without any difficulties."
Dawn Clarke, director of nursing, quality and patient experience, added: "We know the frequent closures of the midwife-led units is not good for the women or the service itself."
Dr Simon Freeman, accountable officer for Shropshire CCG, said health commissioners were only being told about temporary closures of the rural maternity units on the same day they happened.
He said the fact that the proposals will now have to be signed off for public consultation by NHS England was likely to delay the process for a small number of months.
Under the new proposals, which have already been signed off by Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin CCGs, women will no longer be able to give birth at the rural midwife-led units in Oswestry, Ludlow and Bridgnorth.
Instead women will be able to give birth at the consultant-led unit at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, at the hospital’s neighbouring midwife led unit at PRH, at a free-standing midwife-led unit at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or at home.
Under the plans, a series of maternity ‘hubs’ would also be created to support women before and after birth.
It comes as health campaigners have expressed their dismay at the repeated temporary overnight closures of birthing services at Shropshire’s rural maternity units.
The three rural midwife-led units reopened to births on New Year’s Day after a suspension due to staffing issues last year.
A recruitment drive was held to help fill vacancies and strengthen the service.
But there have been a series of temporary overnight closures since then that Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust – which runs the midwife-led units – has blamed on staff sickness.
Last week the trust announced birthing services at the unit in Oswestry would be closed until February 25 after saying expectant mothers were not choosing to use the facility.
Health bosses have stressed that antenatal and postnatal services would remain available at the unit.
They said they had taken the decision reluctantly but had done so for the sake of patient safety.
Health campaigners have accused them of reducing women’s choices on where they can give birth.