GREATER Glasgow NHS Board today agreed to consult with the public on a working group report which includes the proposal to close the Queen Mother's Hospital.
The Board stressed that it would listen to all views and that no final decision will be made until after this major consultation exercise which starts in early November.
NHS Greater Glasgow chairman, Professor Sir John Arbuthnott again gave a personal assurance that the Royal Sick Children's Hospital was not part of this consultation process, that investment will continue in the hospital and that it will continue to serve the needs of children for the next 15 years. The Board agreed the future of the Sick Children's Hospital would not be part of this consultation process.
Sir John said: "Tumbling birth rates (a reduction of 3,500 over the last 11 years), pressures on staff and changes in clinical organisation mean it is imperative that we make a decision soon on the future of maternity services. We will take all views into account. We're leaving the door open to new ideas and, if we find that there is a strong evidence-based case for an alternative, we'll certainly consider it."
The recommendations in today's maternity services report were put forward following a three month pre-consultation carried out by an independently chaired Modernising Maternity Services Working Group.
Chaired by Professor Margaret Reid of the University of Glasgow, the group gathered evidence from experts from across the UK, local health staff and other interested parties before making their recommendations.
Chief Executive Tom Divers said: "The reason why we had a pre-consultation was that we did not have a clear consensus from local clinicians as to the best way forward ensuring safe services for both mothers and babies. However, there is a clear consensus that we need to cut the number of maternity hospitals from three to two, but opinions are divided as to which hospital should be closed. That's why we asked Professor Reid's group to look in detail at the sensitive clinical issues involved."
Professor Michael Farthing, Board member, Dean of the Medical School and member of the Working Group, spoke about how evidence was gathered for the report.
He said: "We heard evidence and we heard opinions and based the outcome of the report on evidence. We found the evidence from the experts, who have no competing or conflicting interests, compelling. Seven out of nine agreed that moving services from the Queen Mother's to the Southern General was the best way forward."
Dr Brian Cowan, Greater Glasgow NHS Board Medical Director, said: "Changes in medicine, pressures of ongoing training, New Deal for Junior Doctors and the Working Time Directive for Consultants mean that our clinicians can no longer sustain the current number of rotas. There's a minimum amount of clinical staff required to cover each rota and skilled staff are needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have to make a difficult decision, but however difficult that decision will be, it has to be made soon."
An extensive public consultation, starting at the beginning of November, will now take place on the proposals endorsed by the Board at today's meeting. User friendly information leaflets on each key recommendation will be made widely available with more detailed information accessible to those who want it. This will include all of the written material submitted to the Working Group for the pre-consultation period.
Following the consultation, the Board will look at all the views gathered and make a decision on the shape of future services. A final decision will then be put forward for approval by the Minister for Health and Social Care.ENDS
NOTES TO EDITORS:
In 1999, following widespread consultation with women's groups and medical professionals, it was agreed two maternity units should serve Glasgow. Pressures on the midwifery, obstetric, neonatal and anaesthetic workforces are such that change is essential.
This leaves a tough choice: either the Southern General Maternity Hospital or the Queen Mother's Maternity must close. Both are excellent hospitals and both provide a good range of local and regional services, but these services can be better provided with proper resources and staffing for the long-term from one site.
The Maternity Services Modernisation Working Group report was submitted to the Board at a special Board meeting on October 7, 2003. Midwives and representatives from the Maternity Services Users Network (MatNet) also submitted reports.
The consultation process will be thorough and inclusive, offering everyone from MSPs and maternity network groups to clinicians and Glasgow mothers the chance to have their say on the future of maternity services in the city.
Media Information: Dawn Nelson on 0141 201 4912 or [email protected]