CAMPAIGNERS have reacted with fury to the shock announcement that Stafford Hospital's maternity unit is to close in January - despite a review promised by the Government into its future.
Staff were called into a meeting last night and told by managers that the unit was shutting in the New Year due to concerns over safety and staffing levels.
The news spread to the Support Stafford Hospital camp in the hospital grounds - who immediately alerted Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy.
Campaigner Julian Porter said: "We are almost lost for words.The anger and shock in the camp ispalpable.
"The decision goes against all the assurances from the Health Secretary that there would be a 'double lock' in place to ensure that no services are moved out of Stafford until managers have satisfied themselves about the need, and there has been an independent review of that decision. In fact, it makes a mockery of it.
"It is also dreadfully worrying for expectant mothers in the area - it is putting all their plans into limbo, and they have no idea where they will be giving birth."
Mr Porter said he had to contact Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy's office to tell him the news - despite the MP having been given assurances that local MPs would be the first to know of any significant changes.
Mr Lefroy said: “I am very concerned about this announcement. If this decision has been made on staffing and safety grounds, then the Trust needs to say what the safety grounds are and what steps were taken to mitigate them before this decision was taken.”
“It had always been my impression that the promised NHS England review would take place before any decision to move maternity services. As of this evening we have no sign of that starting.
“I have contacted the Secretary of State to urge that the scheduled maternity review takes place as soon as possible and that it will not be a fait accompli. I am also seeking written confirmation that any result of that review will be implemented at Stafford.”
“The way I have heard about this announcement again underlines, as I’ve said before, that there must be clear communication with staff and patients. What is now vital is that all women booked to give birth at Stafford need to be contacted in order to calm any concerns or fears they may have. It is also important that we give as much support as possible to staff, who are going to be feeling uncertainty and concern at this time.”
And Councilolr Mike Heenan, Leader of Stafford Borough Council said he was devastated by the decision.
"The people of Stafford have indicated clearly that they do not support the movement of consultant led maternity services to UHNS," he said. We now need a breathing space to ensure that a proper decision is made on the basis of all the information. This must not proceed until proper evaluation takes place.”
Mid Staffs Trust was today referring all questions about the decision to UHNS, which will be running the hospital by January.