An independent clinical report published on 26 September 2017 has confirmed the need to change the way that services for women and newborn babies are delivered in Liverpool, and backed proposals for the future.
It comes as the local NHS moves towards a potential public consultation on a proposal for these services in late 2017 or early 2018, pending approval from NHS England and local authorities.
The Northern England Clinical Senate, a panel of midwives and doctors who work outside of the north west, was asked to take an independent view of the review of women’s and neonatal services in Liverpool.
The review, part of the Healthy Liverpool programme, was led by NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in partnership with Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, and CCGs in Knowsley and South Sefton, whose residents also use these services.
In January 2017 a draft pre-consultation business case was published, detailing four potential options for the future, including a ‘preferred option’ for relocating services to a new hospital next to the new Royal Liverpool Hospital. Under the proposal, the new Liverpool Women’s Hospital would be connected to the new Royal Liverpool Hospital by a covered bridge, providing immediate access to specialist surgical, medical and diagnostic services, and an adult intensive care unit.
The Clinical Senate’s report agrees that there is a strong clinical argument for change, emphasising the risks with delivering care for women and newborns on a stand-alone site away from other related services, as is currently the case at Liverpool Women’s. Among the range of issues it highlights are the problems that the Trust faces recruiting anaesthetics specialists, due to its isolated position; the fact that Liverpool Women’s does not have CT or MRI scanning facilities, a blood bank or an adult intensive care unit; and the lack of space in the neonatal unit.
The Senate panel also recognised that because services for adults and children currently take place on different hospital sites in Liverpool, there is no solution which could meet all of the issues which have been identified. It judged that on balance the option to relocate services to a new hospital next to the new Royal was the most appropriate and sustainable of the four potential options for the future which were published in early 2017.
Dr Fiona Lemmens, Clinical Director for the Healthy Liverpool Hospitals Programme, said:
“The Northern England Clinical Senate confirms the view held by local midwives, nurses and doctors, that services at Liverpool Women’s face some very significant, and growing, challenges. It also supports our belief that we must act to make sure that care for women and newborn babies in the city is safe now, and in the future.
“A huge amount of work has taken place to develop potential solutions for these services, which has led us to believe that the best option for the future would be a new Liverpool Women’s Hospital, next to the new Royal Liverpool Hospital. However, before we make a final decision, we need to know what people think about this proposal. This will be the purpose of the public consultation, which we hope will begin either towards the end of 2017, or early next year.”
Dr Andrew Loughney, Medical Director at Liverpool Women’s said:
“The findings of the Clinical Senate report reflect the challenges that we face as clinicians on a daily basis. While the team at Liverpool Women’s work tirelessly to deliver the very best care that they can, and our outcomes for patients are good, we know that there are opportunities to make this even better.
“Midwives, nurses and doctors at Liverpool Women’s have been at the heart of the process to identify the problems facing services, and develop options for the future. We look forward to talking about this is more detail during any future public consultation.”
The independent Clinical Senate report was requested by NHS England as part of their process to make sure that proposals are fit for purpose and ready to be presented to the public - its submission means that NHS England can now complete its assurance process. Assuming this is successful, the intention is to present local authorities in Knowsley, Liverpool and Sefton with plans for a public consultation on a proposal for a new Liverpool Women’s Hospital to be built next to the new Royal Liverpool Hospital. This could start as soon as late 2017 or early 2018.
The public consultation would present more detail on how this proposed solution could improve services. It would also describe the three other potential solutions that were set out in the draft business case, and explain why they are no longer considered to be options for the future of women’s and neonatal services in the city.
In the meantime, any members of the public who want to be kept informed on progress around the launch of the public consultation on Liverpool Women’s Hospital can sign up at: www.healthyliverpool.nhs.uk or by calling 0151 296 7537.