Health chiefs confirm they will keep a consultant-led maternity unit at Furness General Hospital

THE much-anticipated decision to retain a consultant-led maternity unit at Furness General Hospital has been confirmed today.

NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced it fully intends to continue to commission the service at FGH in Barrow-in-Furness for the foreseeable future as well as the West Cumberland Hospital at Whitehaven and Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle.

FGH serves a population in excess of 100,000 and the commissioners and the University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMB) came to the conclusion earlier this year that there was no acceptable model for acute care that did not continue to provide the services in Furness.

In a statement, the NHS Cumbria CCG advised it sees the retention of consultant led maternity services at Furness General Hospital as a core commissioning priority.

Dr Geoff Jolliffe, GP Lead for Furness, said: “We are working with our providers and asking them to be innovative and to explore new possibilities to give us a unique service response for the women of Cumbria.

"Due to our distinct geography it can sometimes be difficult to access services outside the county. However, all my colleagues and healthcare professionals across the county are committed to providing a high quality safe maternity service at all hospitals in Cumbria.”

This will come as a huge relief to expectant mums-to-be across the area that have been campaigning to keep the unit at the hospital.

In anticipation of the decision yesterday, Labour county councillor and a founder of the Thousand Voices maternity campaign Mandy Telford said: “This is the news we have been fighting so hard for – I am over the moon that the GPs have listened and recognised that we simply cannot do without a full consultant-led maternity unit here in Furness.

“There will be no letting up of the campaign until we have guarantees over the unit’s future set in stone, but this is huge breakthrough.”

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said: “Getting a firm promise that the maternity unit will stay in its current form is a massive achievement and I am so proud of the way the community has pulled together to make the case.

“We need to keep pushing on the maternity unit to make this promise a reality and also step up the campaign to secure other key services, but it is hard to over-estimate the significance of this breakthrough.

“It shows that our local GPs understand what our area needs and are prepared to fight Furness’ corner, they deserve our thanks.”

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