Temporary emergency changes to services to remain in place
Temporary emergency changes to maternity, neonatal and gynaecology services in Worcestershire are to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals, and the county’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups have all agreed that staffing levels have not improved sufficiently to allow the temporary emergency changes to be reversed. They also recognise there is a need to offer women certainty about where they will give birth.
Interim Chief Nursing Officer Mari Gay said: “Despite extensive recruitment campaigns we still find ourselves unable to safely staff neonatal and emergency gynaecology services on a sustainable 24/7 basis at both the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals. Regretfully this means we cannot reverse the temporary emergency changes which were made last year, and we are unlikely to be able to do so for the foreseeable future. It is important that we are honest with pregnant women about the options available to them for the birth of their babies so that they can plan where they give birth. Unfortunately we are not in a position to re-open the obstetric unit at the Alexandra Hospital and are unlikely to be able to do so for many months due to national neonatal nurse staffing shortages. All women who have been booked to deliver at the Alexandra Hospital have been transferred to Worcestershire Royal Hospital where they can receive continuity of care or, if they have chosen to do so, to alternative hospitals outside the county.”
The temporary emergency changes to maternity, neonatal and gynaecology services have been implemented smoothly. Worcestershire Royal Hospital has absorbed the additional births and no mothers or babies have had to be transferred out of county due to lack of capacity. Antenatal and post natal services continue to be provided at the Alexandra Hospital. The Clinical Commissioning Groups have undertaken quality inspections of the maternity service and are confident that high rates of patient safety, quality and satisfaction are being achieved. The numbers of babies ‘born before arrival’ across Worcestershire have not changed since the temporary emergency changes were made.
Dr Carl Ellson and Simon Hairsnape, speaking on behalf of the three Worcestershire CCGs, said: “We must fully support the decision to retain the temporary, emergency changes to maternity, neonatal and gynaecology services in the county. We recognise that many people will be disappointed that the NHS is not in a position to reverse these temporary emergency changes but safety of patients has to be our prime concern and there are not enough staff to safely run services across the two sites on a 24/7 basis. We have a responsibility to commission safe and secure services and the current shortage of specialist staff, which is a national problem, means it would be unsafe to reverse the current emergency arrangements. We will continue to monitor the safety of services.”
The proposed Clinical Model for the Future of Acute Hospital Services in Worcestershire has recently been agreed by the three Clinical Commissioning Groups and is now being assured by the West Midlands Clinical Senate. In the proposed model emergency gynaecology, neonatal and consultant-led births in the county are all proposed to be centralised at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. The CCGs are committed to consulting on the possibility of introducing a midwife-led birth centre in the north of the county for low-risk births. The proposed clinical model will be put to public consultation before any permanent changes are made.