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Maternity services set to be reduced
MATERNITY services are set to be reduced as a result of a falling birth rate and the loss of vital funding.
Bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust say maternity capacity needs to be reviewed after they lost a battle with commissioners to retain £2.6 million of funding that has previously been paid to keep maternity and paediatric services at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.
The acute trust fought against the funding being withdrawn but an arbitration panel of senior officials from NHS England and the NHS Trust Delivery Authority ruled against it.
As a result the trust is now predicting a £5 million loss for the current financial year and looking to realign its services to fit with the money that is there.
The review of maternity capacity is also being driven by a decline in birth rates, which are currently about 15 per cent lower than a year ago.
The trust carried out 476 deliveries during June, compared to 555 in June 2012.
Discussions are ongoing with commissioners and chief executive Penny Venables said she has been assured that if “transitional” funding does become available then they will be supportive of the trust’s position.
“Financially it is really difficult at the Alexandra because we have had £2.6 million taken away that was supporting the service,” said Mrs Venables. “We are bearing the brunt of that.”
The acute trust currently employs 290 midwives across the county.
Mrs Venables said maternity jobs within the trust will need to be reduced but that permanent staff should not be affected.
“The number of bookings has gone down from this time last year and the number of births we are predicting is also down. At this stage we would not be getting rid of any on-the-books positions. Bank and agency staff would be reduced.”
At an acute trust board meeting, deputy chairman John Burbeck asked when action would be taken now that the need for a reduction had been identified.
But chief operating officer Stewart Messer said it is not something that can be “done overnight”.
“Last year the birth rate was increasing significantly to the point where we were bringing a business case to increase the number of midwives,” he said. “It has taken an unexpected downturn but before we do anything we need to ensure it is not a temporary downturn.
“The review is ongoing but we don’t want to be in a position over winter where we have reduced the workforce and then demand increases.”
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