THE Solihull News speaks exclusively to Mike Wyldes, clinical director and consultant at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, about the maternity services changes.
Why have the changes happened now?
Mike said that the health trust had been weighing up its options for a while and had advertised several times to get more paediatricians and consultants, with little success.
“We wanted to make sure that there were enough maternity staff at Solihull Hospital to ensure the safety of new-born babies.”
But he admits that times have moved on and said that there is a trend to have a smaller number of larger maternity units.
“If you look in most of the big cities in the UK, there’s a move towards larger units, because they can provide 24 hour services for high dependency and intensive care.
“I think there’s also a bit of looking forward within the trust and what we are hoping to do not just in 2010, but how will things be looking in 2015, 2020 and further down the line.”
What would you say to parents who are worried about travelling to other hospitals?
The distance between Solihull and Heartlands is about 7.2m. Mike said that the average journey time would probably be 15-20 minutes for Silhillians.
“I’ve been living in Solihull since 1969 and I do understand people’s feelings. They do like to have their services local, but at the end of the day, there’s a balance to be struck between having a service local and what we can provide if people will only travel a small distance.”
He said that mums will have one-to-one meetings with midwives to discuss their options.
The bulk of high-risk births will be transferred to Heartlands, but there will also be the option of Good Hope, in Sutton Coldfield, and hospitals further afield
Can Heartlands cope with the extra influx of births?
Mike confirmed that there would be four extra delivery rooms and two additional labour suites. Room had also be made for an extra 19 beds.
Some of the midwives will remain at the Solihull unit, while others will go over to Heartlands.
Could the present arrangement have continued until after consultation?
“There were discussions with the staff groups that were providing cover in Solihull and they are firmly of the opinion they could not go past the March deadline.”
Will the consultation have any meaning if the changes have already been made?
Mike said that health bosses were “absolutely committed” to consultation. But he also conceded that it would be difficult to return to the specialist service that many Silhillians want.
“The option to go back and develop the paediatric service is a difficult one. We have tried that for the past three years without success.”
Was there a financial incentive for downgrading the Solihull unit?
He denied that the trust had taken the decision for financial reasons and said that more money would be spent on the new set-up than the old one.
Did the changes to maternity services indicate that Solihull would be reduced further in future?
Mike said that Solihull was to remain a “centre of excellence” for elective surgery. Whereas Heartlands would be geared towards providing emergency treatment.
“I think the changes to maternity services are in line with that,” he said.