Have your say on proposed closure of Melton birth unit
Plans to close Melton’s St Mary’s Birth centre are included in a major public consultation launched today (Monday) by the local health authority.
The proposals, which would see the town baby unit relocated to a new midwifery-led service at the Leicester General Hospital, were first mooted in 2016 as part of a drive to centralise maternity services for women across Leicestershire and Rutland in Leicester.
It forms part of a scheme to significantly reconfigure hospital services to include a new maternity hospital and the first single-site dedicated children’s hospital in the East Midlands at Leicester Royal Infirmary and the expanding of Glenfield Hospital by a third to create a planned care treatment centre for operations and emergency procedures.
The government has pledged £450million for the work to be carried out but whether it happens depends on the results of public feedback in the consultation, which will last until December 21.
Melton residents are urged by the three NHS clinical commissioning groups covering Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland to say what they feel about the proposals to relocate St Mary’s Birth Centre, which caters for low risk births only.
If the closure of the Melton unit is approved it would still be some years off, the health authority says, and existing staff would be relocated to maternity services at the city hospitals.
Part of the reason for proposing to close St Mary’s is because it has had a diminishing number of births in recent years with 141 there in the year 2018 to 2019, at an average of less than three a week.
It would need at least 500 births a year to be a viable service, the health authority say.
It is also considered too far away for mums in other parts of Leicestershire to easily get to.
Andrew Furlong, medical director for University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, told the Melton Times at a press briefing: “It’s difficult to know why St Mary’s is under-utilised because a lot of work has been done to promote the services there.
“Where it is located might be a factor - it could be that the catchment area of people living in and around Melton is not big enough for a birthing centre and the transport links are not good enough.
“We have to ask the question, ‘do people in Melton want that birth unit?’
“There is also a trend where women like to have their babies somewhere which is co-located with other health facilities in case something goes wrong.”
If the birth centre is closed in Melton, local mums would still have access to community maternity services in the town and the option to use a home birth team but they would face a 20-mile journey into the city if they prefer a hospital birth.
Mr Furlong said the overall transformation of health services will take up to seven years and that the Melton birth unit closure and relocation would not be one of the first projects on the list.
He commented: “We have spoken to staff at the St Mary’s unit and they are supportive of a maternity unit being set up at The General.
“We would be looking to move them across to the Leicester maternity services although we will be sensitive to their needs and some would be involved in the community maternity services which would continue in Melton.”
The number of babies born at St Mary’s in recent years are: 2008 - 237; 2009 - 277; 2010 -260; 2011 - 254; 2012 - 252; 2013 - 240; 2014 - 195; 2015 - 162; 2016 - 181; 2017 - 127; 2018 - 131; 2019 - 141.
The overall Leicester hospitals revamp would provide 139 more hospital beds and move all acute care - patients receiving treatment for severe injury or illness, urgent medical conditions and those recovering from surgery - to the Leicester Royal Infirmary and to Glenfield Hospital.
A new community health campus with non-acute services would be created on the site of Leicester General Hospital, including in-patient beds for patients
recovering from a stroke, new GP direct access imaging facilities such as x-rays and scans to help diagnose conditions quicker, plus the retention of the existing diabetes centre of excellence.
The health authority believe the new set-up would be a far better use of resources and address the challenges of modern healthcare where people live longer and more of us survive and live with serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
The new set-up would, however, mean longer journey times for 30 per cent of patients across the county, it admits.
Mr Furlong added: “The way our hospitals are set up is a matter of history rather than design.
“We have old buildings, with services spread too thinly across three sites and in ways that make delivering care very challenging.”
Health officials were asked at the briefing about how importantly public views will be taken on board in the consultation.
Caroline Trevithick, executive director of nursing, quality and performance for the local CCGs, said: “People often say to us ‘it’s a done deal’ when we launch a consultation like this.
“But it’s important to remember that these plans have come out of years of conversations with members of the public as well as clinicians.
“We need to know if any of these proposals will adversely impact on people’s lives and we will take the feedback into consideration before any final decisions are made.”
To see the full consultation document and complete the questionnaire survey go online at www.betterhospitalsleicester.nhs.uk or email emailing [email protected] for further details or alternatively call 0116 295 0750 to have a hard copy sent out to you.
Every householder across Leicestershire and Rutland will also receive information about the proposals as part of the public consultation exercise.