FRESH legal moves are being considered by campaigners to prevent services being moved out of Stafford Hospital, following the shock news that consultant-led maternity services are likely to move in January.
Support Stafford Hospital campaigner and borough councillor Chris Baron has tabled an emergency motion for the next meeting of the council’s Cabinet on September 4 calling on councillors to seek an injunction preventing the transfer of services to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
“I want to see the move halted until we have the full review of maternity services in the area that was promised by the Health Secretary,” Councillor Baron said. “Stafford Borough Council should be doing its utmost to defend our hospital.
“What is happening is totally wrong. Services are being dismantled and the change is happening in a piecemeal way that is going to put lives at risk.”
Councillor Baron said that on a recent visit to UHNS she was told that the hospital was working near capacity, and was itself having to transfer patients elsewhere.
“There is no justification for moving services out of Stafford to another hospital that is already under pressure,” she said.
And Support Stafford Hospital campaign founder Cheryl Porter disputed claims from NHS managers that the maternity move was in the interests of patient safety due to staffing levels.
“That is just plain wrong when we know that Stafford has just taken on five new midwives,” she said. “It seems to me that the move is intended to prop up Stoke services at the expense of Stafford.”
Mrs Porter said the latest figures showed that Stafford’s maternity unit was fully staffed, while UHNS was operating on 89.8 per cent staffing during the daytime and 88.7 per cent at night. And she said the planned move did not take into account the extra risks of longer ambulance journeys for mothers and babies, or the extra pressure on a fully stretched ambulance service.
“They are taking us for utter idiots and this move is an insult to the people of Stafford,” she added. “But the way they keep changing the goalposts does give us scope for a fresh legal challenge. We are exploring all the legal options – and the fight goes on.”
The National Childbirth Trust has also condemned the move of consultant-led maternity out of the county town.
Lisa Carter, NCT regional partnership manager, said the move ignored a Department of Health pledge that women should be able to choose how and where they gave birth.
“Stafford parents do not want to have to travel 20 miles to receive services that are currently available nearby, especially not if they are in labour or have seriously ill children,” she said.