Emergency meeting tonight as Furness mums campaign against maternity service transfer

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

MUMS-to-be and parents are hosting an emergency meeting tonight (Friday) to ramp up opposition to plans to temporarily shift Barrow’s expert maternity and special baby care services to Lancaster.

Furness General Hospital's consultant-led service - used by those expecting complicated births - will shift to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI) from next Wednesday, although routine births can still take place at FGH.

But campaigners suspect it signals the start of a downgrading of Barrow's higher-level service and its long-term transfer to RLI.

For mums anticipating complicated births, it will mean a 95-mile round trip down the A590 and negotiating Lancaster City Centre’s one-way system.

Some fear women will give birth en route to Lancaster, which could put new-borns and complicated pregnancies at serious risk.

However, trust bosses have insisted that their hand has been forced because the current consultant-led service in Barrow has been hit with chronic staff shortages and is becoming unsafe.

They say they want to safeguard standards for mums and newborns by putting them in the hands of expertise in Lancaster, and only temporarily.

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But Barrow’s MP John Woodcock says the decision was taken without consultation.

Mr Woodcock said: “This is a shocking decision taken without the prior knowledge or agreement of the doctors who are supposed to ensure families have the health services they need.

"The special care baby unit and the consultant-led maternity service should be a priority for the area and surely they could have been kept open by a temporary transfer of staff from the other hospitals in the trust.

“Managers owe it to the families here to get the consultant-led service back as soon as possible and do whatever it takes to dispel suggestions that they want to remove special care for vulnerable newborns permanently in the forthcoming review.”

The MP’s wife, Mandy Telford, herself a mum-of-two, has been the driving force behind the Thousand Voices campaign which was set up three weeks ago to Save FGH Maternity Unit. It is collecting video clips of 1,000 people opposed to any downgrading and has had hundreds added so far.

Over the last two years, the FGH maternity unit has been under the microscope with police, care standards experts and trust board members, following the deaths of mothers and babies; some of which are still being investigated.

Ms Telford, who hosts tonight's meeting, said: “People are horrified at the prospect of mums-to-be, who are facing complicated births, having to travel 50 miles to Lancaster to have their babies. It's vital we step up the campaign after this disturbing news, so this is a call to all mums and dads in the area to get active."

In a statement, Sir David Henshaw, Interim Chair, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) said: “Over the past eight weeks, we have been filling shifts with the goodwill of existing and agency staff but the situation has now risen to a level where this is not enough to ensure safe staffing levels. We have also encountered a marked increase in maternity sickness levels since the escalation of the on-going police investigation.

“The safety of everyone who uses our hospitals is a priority for the new Trust Board at Morecambe Bay. As from 9am, Tuesday 5 February 2013, all SCBU services and consultant-led maternity services will be temporarily transferring from FGH to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI).

“Therefore as of the 5 February, we will maintain a safe, midwifery led service at FGH. We have no desire to keep the service away longer than it needs to be and are aiming for the service to return as soon as safe, sustainable staffing levels can be achieved.

"However, it would be wrong of me to guarantee the exact timings as there are many factors outside of our control such as resolving the sickness absence levels. The Trust Board has instructed the Medical Director and Executive Chief Nurse to report back in two weeks with a plan for the return of these services to FGH.”

Jackie Daniel, Chief Executive, UHMBT said: “We announced in November that clinicians had raised concerns regarding the ability to safely staff the SCBU at FGH and the action we were taking to mitigate against this risk, however this has now been overtaken by the significant, unsustainable levels of sickness absence.

“We will continue to work hard, together with the wider NHS to recruit more midwives and neonatal nurses. We have also liaised with other specialist and regional providers to second staff, but this has not yet proved successful.”

“The Trust will naturally be speaking directly to women who are due to give birth imminently and those who already have planned dates for delivery or induction of labour in the coming days. All pregnant women in the area will be contacted with regards to their ongoing antenatal care and also in relation to the plans for the birth of their baby.”

In the meantime, if any women have concerns or require further information they can call 0800 028 2340 between 8am and 10pm, Monday to Friday, and between 8am and 7pm, Saturday and Sundays."

She added: "It is important to note, if pregnant women are in need of urgent advice in relation to their own or their unborn baby’s health or if they suspect they are in labour, they should contact the delivery suite directly using the numbers they have already been given. In any other emergency, they should dial 999 and request an ambulance."

The meeting, at which Mr Woodcock will attend, takes place at Greengate Infants School, Barrow, at 6pm tonight (Friday, February 1).

Comments (5)

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12:31pm Fri 1 Feb 13

Guanajuato says...

Lancaster is already understaffed and can't cope with the slightly out of the ordinary cases that get transferred from Kendal. Even with Blues & 2s, getting from Barrow to Lancaster in 90 minutes would be good going, and then add on the additional half hour down to Preston, after waiting at Lancaster for an hour. Closure through the back door. What they need to do is sort out the fundamental management and communication problems across the trust - the systemic faults are NOT limited to Barrow. Too many managers managing the the managers and not enough people who actually know what they're doing.
Lancaster is already understaffed and can't cope with the slightly out of the ordinary cases that get transferred from Kendal. Even with Blues & 2s, getting from Barrow to Lancaster in 90 minutes would be good going, and then add on the additional half hour down to Preston, after waiting at Lancaster for an hour. Closure through the back door. What they need to do is sort out the fundamental management and communication problems across the trust - the systemic faults are NOT limited to Barrow. Too many managers managing the the managers and not enough people who actually know what they're doing. Guanajuato
  • Score: 0

5:58pm Fri 1 Feb 13

CLHattersley says...

The question no-one seems to be asking, is "why have sickness levels increased?". I wonder what staff morale is like, and what the staff believe the management's understanding of the problems are?
The question no-one seems to be asking, is "why have sickness levels increased?". I wonder what staff morale is like, and what the staff believe the management's understanding of the problems are? CLHattersley
  • Score: 0

9:37pm Fri 1 Feb 13

pixie55 says...

Staff morale is rock bottom. Management know about the problems because they are causing them so that services are taken away from Barrow. Staffing levels have been cut to dangerous levels and still are, moreso the last 2 weeks, at Barrow. Getting rid of one manager would pay for 4-5 frontline staff. Management's understanding - that's a joke - not one of them would get a job outside the NHS.
Staff morale is rock bottom. Management know about the problems because they are causing them so that services are taken away from Barrow. Staffing levels have been cut to dangerous levels and still are, moreso the last 2 weeks, at Barrow. Getting rid of one manager would pay for 4-5 frontline staff. Management's understanding - that's a joke - not one of them would get a job outside the NHS. pixie55
  • Score: 0

3:35pm Wed 6 Feb 13

sonorbloke says...

pixie55 wrote:
Staff morale is rock bottom. Management know about the problems because they are causing them so that services are taken away from Barrow. Staffing levels have been cut to dangerous levels and still are, moreso the last 2 weeks, at Barrow. Getting rid of one manager would pay for 4-5 frontline staff. Management's understanding - that's a joke - not one of them would get a job outside the NHS.
Whilst I'd agree with the general tone your maths is way out. Most of the managers (with the exception of the executive) will be on between £35-70k. Experienced nurses now cost roughly £30-35k or so and so 4 or 5 frontline staff will only be if they are poorly trained and very junior care assistants, absolutely not what is needed.
[quote][p][bold]pixie55[/bold] wrote: Staff morale is rock bottom. Management know about the problems because they are causing them so that services are taken away from Barrow. Staffing levels have been cut to dangerous levels and still are, moreso the last 2 weeks, at Barrow. Getting rid of one manager would pay for 4-5 frontline staff. Management's understanding - that's a joke - not one of them would get a job outside the NHS.[/p][/quote]Whilst I'd agree with the general tone your maths is way out. Most of the managers (with the exception of the executive) will be on between £35-70k. Experienced nurses now cost roughly £30-35k or so and so 4 or 5 frontline staff will only be if they are poorly trained and very junior care assistants, absolutely not what is needed. sonorbloke
  • Score: 0

1:36pm Sun 17 Feb 13

pixie55 says...

sonorbloke, you seem to be under the illusion that the wards are staffed by experienced nurses. The wards are staffed by CSW's, who are not trained nurses, on a band 2. You are lucky if there are 1 never mind 2 trained nurses on the wards at FGH. My relative died because of the lack of care on Ward 9 at FGH and was discharged in a worse condition then what they were admitted and had to be readmitted 4 days later. They had been given MRSA and the A & E staff were disgusted but not surprised that they had been discharged. Yet Morecambe Bay state on their website that no-one has been given MRSA in how many days. The lies just keep on coming and coming. Daniels and Co are worse than the previous lot who beggered belief! Top Heavy and Bottom Light.
sonorbloke, you seem to be under the illusion that the wards are staffed by experienced nurses. The wards are staffed by CSW's, who are not trained nurses, on a band 2. You are lucky if there are 1 never mind 2 trained nurses on the wards at FGH. My relative died because of the lack of care on Ward 9 at FGH and was discharged in a worse condition then what they were admitted and had to be readmitted 4 days later. They had been given MRSA and the A & E staff were disgusted but not surprised that they had been discharged. Yet Morecambe Bay state on their website that no-one has been given MRSA in how many days. The lies just keep on coming and coming. Daniels and Co are worse than the previous lot who beggered belief! Top Heavy and Bottom Light. pixie55
  • Score: 0

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