HEALTH bosses have sparked outrage after deciding to downgrade maternity services at Solihull Hospital, before holding any formal consultation.
Yesterday, the authorities announced they would press ahead with plans to set up a midwifery-led unit without consultant cover.
This means that Solihull will only be able to handle the most straight forward births, with over 2,000 expected to be diverted to hospitals elsewhere in the West Midlands.
Although health chiefs have described the changes as “temporary” and insist a full consultation will take place before any permanent decisions, campaigners have been incensed by the action.
Angry comments have already begun to appear on a Facebook group, which was set up to oppose the proposals.
And this week, the Solihull News spoke to dozens of locals mums about what the service meant to them.
Both the borough’s MPs have condemned the decision - having battled against the proposals since they were revealed last summer.
Caroline Spelman (Con, Meriden) said she would be meeting midwives today (Friday) to discuss the impact of the changes.
“It is a decision weighted towards the organisation rather than the patients it serves and will deny the women of Solihull borough a choice,” she said.
“It is our NHS and we have a right to have our views as users of the service taken into account. Taxpayers have funded the building and running of the maternity unit - they have a right to be heard.”
Lorely Burt (Lib Dem, Solihull) described the move as a “fait accompli” and will be taking the matter to the Health Secretary Andy Burnham MP.
“To say the consultation will have any meaning after the staff and operational changes have taken place is, in my view, empty rhetoric.
“The next thing won’t be are we going to upgrade the maternity, it will be, are we warranted in offering the maternity at all.”
Campaigner Maggie Throup said: “I am utterly dismayed at the total disregard for public opinion or indeed for any official public consultation before the changes are made. It goes against the wishes of many thousands of Silhillians.
“This denies the mums-to-be of Solihull a voice and a choice.
In their statement, hospital bosses say the current maternity service could not continue, because it does not meet best practice standards.
They said measures had previously been introduced to make sure the department was safe, but these cannot be maintained.
Mark Goldman, the hospital’s chief executive, said: “We are determined to ensure that until a full and open dialogue with Solihull residents can take place, a service that puts the safety of mothers and babies first is continued at Solihull.
“Once the outcome of the full consultation process is known, the trust will stand by and act on the conclusions and recommendations.”
A date has not been set for the 13-week consultation, but the health authorities have said it is unlikely to be until later in the year.
For expectant mums, it means their babies may be born in Redditch, Sutton or Warwick.