Winchester health chiefs defend NHS shake-up plans for RHCH

Basingstoke Gazette: Mary Edwards said the public "recognise that it’s safer to have hospitals that specialise.” Mary Edwards said the public "recognise that it’s safer to have hospitals that specialise.”

HEALTH chiefs in Winchester have insisted that plans for a major NHS shake-up are on track despite calls from some experts for greater clarity.

The proposals, which could see A&E and maternity units in Winchester downgraded, went out for ‘public engagement’ last year and NHS bosses are analysing the response.

In December Mindy Noble, a breastfeeding counsellor and chairman of Hampshire Maternity Services Liaison Committee (HMSLC), called for health chiefs to clarify the options being considered.

Mary Edwards, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We as a hospital are clear that consultant-led hospitals are the way forward but we are aware it’s our decision but are mindful of what the public want. We think the Keogh report is right and agree with its findings.”

Under the proposals, some specialist services could be centralised and moved away from the Royal Hampshire County Hospital to a new emergency hospital north of the city.

As reported, Winchester could be left with a walk-in unit for less serious A&E cases, and a midwife-led maternity unit for natural births only.

At present, about 3,000 women per year give birth at the RHCH which has the full range of obstetricians, paediatricians, anaesthetists and midwives.

Mrs Edwards said: “The public engagement shows us that most of the public recognise that it’s safer and better to have hospitals that specialise.”

On January 28 health chiefs will attend an overview and scrutiny committee at Hampshire County Council to present their response to the public engagement.

In February a formal public consultation process will begin.

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