There are ‘grave concerns’ about plans to house maternity services alongside fertility and gynaecology in a new hospital at the Queen’s Medical Centre.
Several councillors questioned proposals under the ‘Tomorrow’s NUH’ programme to host maternity and neonatal services in the same building as fertility and gynaecology in a new Women’s and Children’s hospital.
The programme has been described as a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity after Nottingham University Hospitals was chosen as one of 40 major hospitals to be funded by the Government to make the changes.
The plans are not yet set in stone and have to go through a public consultation before they are confirmed.
Pre-consultation engagement showed 64 per cent of respondents supported the plans for merging the maternity units at QMC.
Councillor Michelle Welsh (Lab) said the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) were “moving the deckchairs at a time when you should not be”, given the current ‘inadequate’ rating of maternity services by the Care Quality Commission.
It was announced last month that top midwife Donna Ockenden will run her own review into the trust’s maternity services.
Cllr Welsh made the comments during the health scrutiny meeting at Nottinghamshire County Council on June 14.
She said: “I have grave concerns about fertility and gynaecology being with maternity services.
“I mentioned this to the women’s group I am involved with and a lot of them have been through fertility treatment and appointments where they’ve been told the chances of having children are slim.
“It’s about preserving those feelings and being respectful to partners.
“That’s something in the current climate that NUH need to be very wary of. If you did make that decision, you would get a lot of criticism.
“There’s a huge cultural thing in Nottingham that if you live in a certain area, you go to City and everybody else goes to QMC.
“I would suggest you put the brakes on this until Donna Ockenden. Whatever you do with maternity services has to be informed by that review.
“We should not be jumping the gun on this at all.
“You could move all the maternity services tomorrow and it would not improve the care of women and babies at NUH. That’s a fact.”
Councillor Bethan Eddy agreed with Cllr Welsh’s comments and added: “It’s absolutely heart-breaking if you are having fertility issues even to go through an entrance with someone who has just had a baby.”
Alex Ball, Director of Communications and Engagement at Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), admitted that the team “haven’t quite got that right” and said it will be looked at again “quite deeply”.
He said: “The cultural differences between the two sites is really important as well.
“I am fairly sure we would want to dovetail on that [Donna Ockenden’s review] because it would be remiss not to make sure we factor that in. Whether or not we’d want to pause our work to wait for that, I don’t know.
“We wouldn’t want to not continue to make progress on this proposal.”
Mark Wightman, director of strategy and reconfiguration at the CCG said there are about 4,500 births at each maternity unit per year.
He said: “From a process point of view, it’s very difficult to run that effective, efficient, quality, safe, humane maternity services when you are constantly struggling with staffing across two big sites like that
“The plan is to pull those together, and create a new state-of-the-art women and children’s hospital at the QMC.
“When I looked at the plan I thought it made complete sense.”
But after hearing the concerns, he added: “I am aware from conversations with NUH colleagues that they are still scratching their heads about what is the best thing to do.
“If you’re struggling to conceive you don’t want to walk out of that appointment through a room full of mums.
“It will be emotionally very painful and I think our colleagues in the hospitals are aware of that.
“Don’t think for a minute that it’s set in stone because it’s not.”
Chair of the meeting councillor Sue Saddington (Con) said: “You have the opportunity now with Donna Ockenden to look at what is going wrong. That report will be vital for the trust in itself and the patients in Nottinghamshire.
“It concerns me that you’ve got this lump sum of money and we cannot spend it twice.
“My appeal would be for the sake of waiting a few months to know roughly what her thoughts are, you could save millions and I think that is vitally important.”