LEGAL action to stop Stafford Hospital losing its full range of maternity services is being considered by civic leaders.
Stafford Borough Council leader Mike Heenan is consulting solicitors on the legal steps open to the council to halt the move of consultant-led maternity services, which is scheduled for January.
Councillor Heenan said the was “devastated” by the leaked news that the University Hospital of North Staffordshire was planing the switch early in the New Year. He said defending maternity services was a “red line” that should not be crossed, and a legal challenge appeared “inevitable”.
“I was devastated by this. The people of Stafford have indicated clearly that they do not support the movement of consultant led maternity services to UHNS and Wolverhampton,” he said. “I immediately consulted our solicitors with a view to pursuing a legal challenge.
“We must take their advice on the timing and type of action this would mean as my only aim is to ensure we protect a full maternity service at Stafford Hospital, and to do that we need the proper and professional legal advice.”
Councillor Heenan added thathe had not received answers to questions over safeguarding the future of maternity in legal letters that had been sent to UHNS chief executive Mark Hackett.
“He has not provided answers but instead has asked for a meeting,” Councillor Heenan said. “But I will only be happy to meet with him if he has those answers, because I have no intention of being fobbed off.
“Maternity services have always been the red line for me and, if the likelihood is that line has been crossed, it seems inevitable the council will launch a legal challenge to fight any decision that does not protect a full maternity service at Stafford.
“I have contacted the other group leaders on the council as this has always been about cross party support and not about playing party politics – and I am keen to ensure that continues.”
Meanwhile Littleworth ward councillor Rowan Draper urged borough councillors to hold a special council meeting to look at what further steps could be taken to protect Stafford services.
He said the shock move by UHNS made assurances given at a meeting between NHS leaders and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt worthless.
“What is the use of having an emergency meeting to stop services being downgraded before the Trust dissolution, and before the NHS England Maternity Review, if three weeks later an announcement is made that services will be downgraded before the ability to safely deliver those services to an increased base has been proven?” Councillor Draper said.
“Stafford Borough Council pledged to undertake legal action to maintain essential services and it is clear that unless a court-served injunction is presented to the management of UHNS they will continue to rush ahead of the timetable set by Government, both for dissolution and the Prime Minister’s review of maternity services.”