Maternity care public debate

THE possibility of managing Hinchingbrooke Hospital maternity care re-motely was discussed at the second of four public consultation meetings last week. Doctors from the hospital outlined four options for the future of the maternity service to the gathere

THE possibility of managing Hinchingbrooke Hospital maternity care re-motely was discussed at the second of four public consultation meetings last week.

Doctors from the hospital outlined four options for the future of the maternity service to the gathered audience of about 40 people at Slepe Hall, St Ives, on Thursday.

The first option, senior midwifery manager Chris Nixon explained, was to keep the service as it is, delivering approximately 2,400 births per year at the hospital. This option would mean the department would continue to run at

its current, relatively high,


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cost level.

The second option was to remove delivery facilities and retain only ante and post-natal services at the hospital, while the third was to reduce the facility to a midwifery-only service, delivering only "low-risk" babies, Ms Nixon said.

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The final option was to merge services with another provider to reduce costs, leaving the maternity service unaffected and giving the potential to increase the delivery rate by attracting more expectant mothers from outside the hospital catchment.

Currently, 400 women each year choose to travel to Hinchingbrooke to give birth when it is not their nearest facility, Ms Nixon revealed.

Negative views towards the second and third options were expressed by the assembled audience, many of whom said expectant mothers would not want to be faced with trips to alternative hospitals.

Nicola Benham, of Bluntisham, is expecting her second child and told the panel: "It was scary enough going down a hospital corridor to give birth, let alone the A14."

Consultant obstetrician at Hinchingbrooke Paddy Forbes told the meeting that he believed it would be possible for the maternity department to be managed remotely so long as the day-to-day management remained on site.

However, Dr Forbes expressed concern that any merger would eventually lead to pressure to concentrate facilities on only one site.

Earlier in the evening, Cambridgeshire PCT director of commissioning Janice Steed had outlined plans to move more hospital services into the community.

Ms Steed discussed the possibility of a "Consultant in the Community" pilot scheme, a consultant-to-consultant referral policy and the possibility of e-mail consultations - all moves designed to minimise unnecessary hospital visits.

Ms Steed also said she wanted to make Hinchingbrooke a viable and thriving hospital for the future and stated that the current debate is about what services at the hospital will continue, rather than whether the hospital will close, which was "not a prospect".

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