The 12 month review of maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven will end this month.
There has been positive progress over the year, and there will now be a period of review before NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) Governing Body makes any decision about the long term future of services.
Consultant-led maternity services and the development of ‘alongside midwife-led care’ will continue to operate and there will be no changes in the coming months simply because the 12 month period has ended. There will be a review and a report to support a decision early in the summer.
There has been some improvement in recruitment to maternity services as well as the recent appointment of paediatric consultants; this was an area that was making the sustainability of services challenging.
Maternity and Paediatrics services were also rated as good in a recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) report, and the most recent CQC national survey of patient experience, where women were asked about their experiences during labour and birth and the quality of antenatal and postnatal support, rated the Trust as good, or as better, than the national average.
Work with the community and Third Sector through co-production has become established and some areas are making a real difference.
Stephen Eames, who is the leader of the North Cumbria Health and Care System and chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “There has certainly been positive progress over the last 18 months. The CQC report published in November was very positive about the services and about how women feel about their care, and we are making some real progress in recruitment. We are also working very productively with the community to support maternity and paediatric services. It hasn’t been easy to establish a new way of working in co-production but we are making real strides in some areas.”
Since the Healthcare For The Future consultation in Autumn 2016 there has been considerable work to established alongside midwife-led care at both West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. In particular there has been the involvement of local new mums through the Maternity Voices Partnership.
There has been collaborative work to develop audits of the new service and on areas of service improvement, including establishing Short Stay Paediatric Assessment Units at both hospitals, which are proving popular with patients and their families as well as staff as it allows children and young people to be seen and reviewed more quickly.
There has also been the development of co-production work with the community and staff.
The Venerable Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of West Cumberland chairs the Working Together Steering Group.
He said: “The conversation has changed dramatically over the last 18 months, and while there has been more progress in some areas than others, the value of working together collaboratively is really paying off. There is still a long way to go and we are working to review of this type of ‘working together’, looking at how effective we have been, and how we can improve co-production in future.”
The CCG Governing Body agreed a 12 month review of progress around the long-term sustainability of consultant-led services as part of its decision making process in March 2017. This involves a group of independent clinical experts – the Independent Review Group (IRG) chaired by Bill Kirkup.
The 12 month time-limited review period started on April 1 2018 and will end on 31 March 2019. The process of reviewing data will continue for some time after this.
It is expected that the IRG will complete its review of data collected to the end of March and make recommendations in May or June. It will then be considered by the CCG Governing Body meeting in public in early summer.
Jon Rush, the chair of NHS North Cumbria CCG, said: “We were very clear when we said we wanted to really test the sustainability of consultant-led maternity services over a longer period, and now that the 12 month period is coming to an end we look forward to receiving recommendations from the Independent Review Group about the progress that has been made. We will then reach a decision about the future of those services and we anticipate this being in the early summer.
“We know a lot of people have worked very hard to make progress, including community groups in west Cumbria such as the Voices group, who have got involved in co-production, and we are grateful for all the hard work that has taken place.
“We will continue to update our community on progress and the final decision will be clearly signposted ahead of that decision being made. Until then services will continue as they are.”