A review of women’s and neonatal services provided by Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust was announced in 2016. This briefing provides an overview of what has happened so far during this process, and what we expect the next steps to be.
The review, led by NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), in partnership with Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, and CCGs in Knowsley, South Sefton, and Southport & Formby, was driven by the need to maintain and improve quality of care for women and newborn babies, and make sure that services are sustainable. Midwives, nurses, and doctors at Liverpool Women’s believe that change is required because patient needs have become increasingly complex since the hospital opened more than 20 years ago, and there are now new ways of caring for patients and higher national standards. Often women need care and services that are not available at the Crown Street hospital, and therefore they have to be transferred to other hospitals for treatment. This means that the care women receive, and the experience they have, is not the very best that it could be; or we would want it to be.
In January 2017 a draft Pre-Consultation Business Case (PCBC) set out four potential options for the future, including a preferred option: a new hospital for women’s and neonatal services on the new Royal Liverpool Hospital campus, which was seen to offer the greatest number of benefits for patient care.
In September 2017 an independent clinical report into the review was published, which confirmed the need for change. In their report, the Northern England Clinical Senate, a panel of midwives and doctors who work outside of the north west, emphasised the risks of delivering care for women and newborn babies on a stand-alone site away from other related services, as is currently the case at Liverpool Women’s. Among the issues it highlighted were the problems that the Trust faces recruiting anaesthetics specialists, due to its isolated position; and the fact that Liverpool Women’s Hospital does not have CT or MRI scanning facilities, a blood bank, or an adult intensive care unit.
Both the PCBC and the Clinical Senate report are available on the NHS Liverpool CCG website here: https://www.liverpoolccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/current-ongoing-consultations-engagements/liverpool-womens-hospital-review-of-services/.
The Clinical Senate report was requested by NHS England as part of their assurance process to make sure that proposals are fit for purpose and ready to be presented to the public; this process is currently ongoing, and will need to be completed before plans for public consultation can move forward.
Once approval from NHS England is received, a joint committee of north Mersey clinical commissioning groups would be asked to formally agree the form of a public consultation. Consultation plans would then be taken to the North Mersey Joint Overview & Scrutiny Committee, made up of councillors from Knowsley, Liverpool and Sefton, before the start of the consultation itself. The consultation would be an opportunity for people to share their views, and let us know if there is any other information that needs to be considered, including the submission of additional evidence. This opportunity to hear from people and listen to their feedback is an extremely important stage, and no final decisions about the future will be made until after the consultation has taken place.
We know that there is a high level of interest in the future of Liverpool Women’s, and we understand that there will be frustration that public consultation is not yet underway. Please be assured that we are committed to making sure that local women and babies have access to the same high quality care that is available elsewhere in the country; this is not just an aspiration, but also our duty.
We also need to use NHS resources responsibly, but it is important to stress that there is absolutely no threat to services – we want to make services safer, and sustainable; there are no plans to cut or reduce care. To give patients the services they need and deserve, and protect these services for the future, we must change the way care is delivered, and we will continue to do all that we can to move this process forward.