PROTESTERS are pledging to fight tooth and nail against plans to move consultant-led maternity services out of Stafford Hospital.
And they say the controversial move makes a mockery of assurances given bye Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and University Hospital of North Staffordshire chief executive Mark Hackett that a “double lock” of reviews would take place to scrutinise changes before any service was moved out of Stafford.
“This is just so wrong,” said Support Stafford Hospital campaign founder Cheryl Porter. “This makes every assurance made by the Health Secretary and NHS leaders worthless.
“And it shows a cavalier disregard for all the procedures they agreed, and for the views of all the people who use our hospital.”
Mrs Porter said the group would be spending the weekend looking at possible legal and other moves to challenge the plan to move consultant-led maternity to UHNS in January. She said that, in effect, this could spell the end of births at Stafford, as any pregnant woman with the slightest cause of concern for her health would now be likely to be treated at Stoke.
“If they are claiming they are doing this on the grounds of safety, it is absolute bunkum,” she said. “Maternity and paediatrics are fully staffed, and if we end up with a situation where women in labour are being transferred by ambulance to Stoke that will be far more dangerous.”
She also called on the Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group to speak out against the changes. “They are supposed to represent the views of patients and we need to hear from them,” Mrs Porter said.
Meanwhile James Cantrell, assistant to Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy, visited the camp to express the support of the town’s MP, who is currently away in Sweden.
Mr Cantrell questioned the viability of UHNS plans to maintain a midwife-led maternity unit at Stafford, without consultant support.
“The birth of my daughter Beatrix went from being a midwife-led birth to a consultant-led birth in the space of about 30 seconds,” he said. “That is why I feel very strongly about keeping a full maternity service in Stafford, and Jeremy feels the same.
“We are also very concerned about the lack of communication from the hospital authorities – we found out about this move from the protest camp, not from the managers.
“We are not asking for the MP to be told before the staff are informed , but we should be told at the same time.”
And Stafford Labour candidate Kate Godfrey, who was also at the camp today, commented: “This town is being drained of hope because promise after promise to us is being broken.
“I do not see how David Cameron could stand up in Parliament and promise that there would be a full review of maternity services if that promise was going to be broken within weeks.”