In questions to the Department of Health yesterday, Michael Fabricant
tackled the Health Minister on the future of Lichfield’s maternity unit and
the total closure of the Hammerwich Hospital in Burntwood. The Minister
failed to answer on the question of funding. "The failure to make a
statement on the funding of midwifery lead maternity units, promised by the
Government before the General Election, and passing the buck back onto the
under funded local health authority is very worrying", says Michael
Fabricant. "The Health Authority only decided to maintain Lichfield’s
maternity unit – for which local people had campaigned so hard – on the
understanding that the Government review would give some clear direction.
This review now seems to have mysteriously evaporated into thin air and the
Minister has passed the buck back to Health Authorities and Primary Care
Trusts with no promise of funding".
He had asked Health Minister, Yvette Cooper, to make a statement on the
future of midwife-led maternity units. She answered in the Commons
Chamber: "The NHS provides various types of care for women during pregnancy
and childbirth, including care in midwife-led units for low-risk births. The
Government expect that variety to continue to support choice for women,
although it is for health authorities and trusts to decide the pattern of
service provision in each area."
But Michael then reminded the Minister that a delegation of Lichfield and
Burntwood hospital charity workers and Labour and Conservative Councillors
had met Health Ministers in Whitehall at the beginning of November last year
to raise their concerns. Eventually the Government sent a reply in late
January which made no mention of two points raised by the delegation: (1)
the future of Lichfield’s maternity unit; and (2) the maintenance of a
hospital in Burntwood. Michael explained yesterday that he immediately
wrote back to the Minister about these points, but 2 months later there has
still been no reply.
He told the Minister that before the General Election the Government had
promised a Review into the future of the financing of maternity units and
asked when the report would be published. He asked in Parliament "Can
the honourable Lady finally put the people of Lichfield and Burntwood out of
their misery and say what is the future for in-patient health care?"
The Minister simply replied: "The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it is
for the health authority and, in future, primary care trusts to propose
local services and their configuration in his area. However, I can tell him
that the Government support properly established midwife-led maternity
units, which are extremely popular with women. The maternity and neonatal
work force group is looking at all kinds of models of care in maternity
services and the different work force requirements and procedures needed to
Michael Fabricant today says: "So now it’s clear. Despite all the promises
made before the 2001 election, the Minister avoided any mention of the
publication of the Review of funding on midwife-lead maternity units, such
as our own in Lichfield, and had nothing to say about the closure of the
Hammerwich Hospital. They have washed their hands of both issues. The
maternity and neonatal work force group has no responsibility for funding.
The buck has been passed to our local Primary Care Trust with no promise of
the finance needed to maintain these services. With this rather
disappointing news, I will be contacting the PCT to determine whether they
will at least be able to keep open our maternity unit".