HEALTH Secretary Andrew Lansley has denied a U-turn over his pledge to protect Solihull’s downgraded maternity services.
During the run-up to the General Election in 2010, the now Secretary of State for Health had personally visited Solihull Hospital to promise the unit would be saved if his party was elected.
In a letter to Conservative candidate Maggie Throup, he said: “I would require the Primary Care Trust to commission continuing maternity services at Solihull, pending the outcome of a locally-led and clinician-led review of maternity services.”
But last year the maternity unit was downgraded to a midwife-led service forcing mothers who want an epidural, caesarean or those with complications to travel to Birmingham to give birth.
Speaking last week to the Solihull News, Mr Lansley denied making empty pre-election promises and claimed mums-to-be would prefer the new unit as they “did not want to give birth in a highly clinical environment.”
“We wanted to create a home from home style with the midwife led unit in Solihull,” he said. “The safety of mothers is extremely important.”
He added that mothers should be able to have access to an obstetrician unit if they need it.
Mr Lansley was visiting Heartlands Hospital - like Solihull part of the Heart of England Foundation Trust - for the launch of new Clinical Quality Indicator standards which will replace the four hour targets for patients in A&E which he said were not always in the best interest of patients.
The Secretary of State for Health has come under fierce criticism recently for his controversial NHS reforms bill to create GP-led consortiums who would take over from Primary Care Trusts and manage 60 per cent of the NHS budget.
The bill was widely criticised by medical professionals concerned that increased competition and use of more private firms could lead to the privatisation of the NHS and earlier this year, the MP was forced to accept “substantiative” changes to his original scheme.
Health professionals have now ‘paused’ to examine the wider implications of any changes.
But despite all the plans, Mr Lansley denied that his original reforms had been lost and was adamant the “essence of patient focus” remained.