Hopefully you were glued to your screens just like me this evening (24th January) for Hospital on BBC Two. This week it featured our very own Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Most importantly, I would like to say thank you to all of the patients who took part. You were an inspiration. Receiving any kind of medical care can be daunting, even without the presence of a camera crew! Without the help of people like you Kate, Rebekah, Lili and baby Violet’s family, important documentaries like Hospital could not be made.
What comes across strongly in all of the Hospital programmes is the way NHS staff have to fight to provide good patient care despite facing some serious organisational difficulties.
Some of the challenges at Liverpool Women’s Hospital were shared during tonight’s episode. You probably noticed that our patients had to access services at several different hospitals in order to get the care that they needed whereas in most major UK cities, all such services would be provided on a single hospital site.
In fact the midwives, doctors and nurses at Liverpool Women’s Hospital have been saying for several years that by continuing to work on our present isolated site on Crown Street, our patients are being put at a big disadvantage. That is why they want us to move Liverpool Women’s Hospital to a brand new building, next to the new Royal Liverpool Hospital. Of course, the Crown Street building isn’t that old but the medical challenges we face have changed dramatically in the twenty years or so since it was built.
In maternity we now care for many more women who have significant health problems than we used to. Some have cancer, others have heart disease, diabetes, severe breathing problems and so on. Their conditions often become even more life threatening when they are pregnant. To provide them with modern high standards of care, we have to work very closely with a whole range of specialist health professionals, many of whom can be found at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. If we were in a new Liverpool Women’s Hospital, joined to the new Royal, the care would clearly be safer especially when specialised help is needed at short notice.
In gynaecology we are also treating people with much more complex medical conditions than we ever used to. If a woman with a severe gynaecological problem needs complex surgery, her medical team can consist not just of a gynaecologist and gynaecology nurse but also a bowel surgeon, a specialised anaesthetist, a blood transfusion expert and an intensive care physician, specialised cancer nurses, intensive care nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists and so on. The list is huge. No amount of money could ever give us access to that kind of expertise on our relatively small, isolated site. But if we were in a new Liverpool Women’s Hospital, joined to the new Royal… you get the picture!
One side effect of working on our isolated site at Crown Street is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to recruit top quality people to senior clinical positions in the hospital, or even to retain our own senior staff. Potential recruits tell us that without the assurance of having other specialist colleagues around them, they would rather work elsewhere. This is a real worry and could put the future of our services here in Liverpool at great risk for future generations.
Experts from outside of Liverpool have looked at our services and they have agreed with our own staff, that a move into a new building next to the new Royal would be the best thing to do. Two major steps would need to take place before we could make that move; first we would need to receive approval of funding and second we would need to put the plans to public consultation. If you add in the time it would then take to build a new hospital, it is fair to say that we will be staying on our Crown Street site for a number of years to come, regardless of any decisions. That is why we are continuing to invest in our current site, for example, by redeveloping of our existing Neonatal Unit.
Clearly, moving next to the Royal would not solve the problems some of our newborn babies face when they need surgery because surgery for babies is carried out at Alder Hey. We have to accept that there is no perfect solution to this difficulty. We are, however, already working closely with our world class Alder Hey colleagues, to share our own expertise in neonatal care, so that the highest standards of care are maintained and in fact enhanced. This close partnership is something we and our patients value massively.
The present configuration of Liverpool’s hospitals is complex and this is perhaps more of a hindrance than a help. Even so, I am proud to say that at Liverpool Women’s Hospital we will continue to strive to be the leaders in healthcare for women locally, nationally and internationally. We will continue to strive for improvements on behalf of the people of Liverpool. Our services ultimately must be fit for our future generations.