EXPECTANT mothers will have to travel to Birmingham or Worcester to give birth for the foreseeable future it was announced today (Monday).
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust broke the news this evening that the ‘temporary’ emergency changes to maternity, neonatal and gynaecology services at both the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals are to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
The news comes after 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 changes to be reversed.
Although, health chiefs have recognised the need to offer women certainty about where they will give birth.
Mari Gay, interim chief nursing officer, 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. “
She added it is important to be honest with expectant mothers regarding their options so they can plan where they give birth.
“Unfortunately we are not in a position to re-open the obstetric unit at the Alexandra Hospital,” Ms Gay continued. “And are unlikely to be able to do so for many months due to national neonatal nurse staffing shortages.”
All women who were booked to have their babies at the Alex have been transferred to Worcestershire Royal Hospital or to alternative hospitals of their choice.
Speaking on behalf of the three Worcestershire CCGs, Dr Carl Ellson and Simon Hairsnape, said the board must fully support the decision but recognises many people will be disappointed.
They added: “The 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.”
Under the proposed Clinical Model for the Future of Acute Hospital Services in Worcestershire, it is proposed emergency gynaecology, neonatal and consultant-led births in the county are all to be centralised at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
The clinical model, which has recently been agreed by the three Clinical Commissioning Groups and is now being assured by the West Midlands Clinical Senate, will be put to public consultation before any permanent changes are made.