Shropshire maternity shake-up plans hit new delay
The planned shake-up of Shropshire's maternity services will need to be declared clinically sound by the West Midlands Clinical Senate before a public consultation can begin, health bosses have revealed.
Dr Julian Povey, chairman of Shropshire clinical commissioning group, said NHS England had made the decision and needs to know the clinical senate views the plans as "reasonable" before it can rubber-stamp them to send out to public consultation.
Clinical senates have been established to be a source of independent, strategic advice and guidance to commissioners to assist them to make the best decisions about healthcare for the populations they represent.
Mr Povey, who is a member of the senate, said a pre-consultation business case had now been drawn up and it is hoped a meeting can be arranged soon to progress it to the next stage.
He said: "The senate will decide whether it is a reasonable plan.
"It's slightly frustrating it is taking longer than anticipated before we can take it out to public consultation."
Both Shropshire CCG and Telford & Wrekin CCG have already signed the plans off for public consultation.
But it is not known how long it will take before people will be able to have a say on the proposals.
Under the new proposals, women will no longer be able to give birth at the rural midwife-led units in Oswestry, Ludlow and Bridgnorth.
Instead they 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.
It comes after SaTH announced last week that inpatient services at Ludlow's maternity unit would be suspended until March 25.
The unit will remain open between 8am and 8pm for antenatal and postnatal services.
Health bosses said they had taken the decision reluctantly but had done so for the sake of patient safety.
Full services reopened at Oswestry maternity unit on Sunday.