Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Following Lord Hunt?s announcement about the future of the Special Baby Care Unit at Hemel Hempstead Hospital last week (21st February), Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has listed several concerns:

    Peter Lilley said:

    “I am relieved that the Special Baby Care Unit is to be reprieved. It is a tribute to the tenacity and dedication of medical and nursing staff that the Unit can remain open. The strength of public opinion, which I have voiced in Parliament on several occasions in the last few months, was crucial to the decision to maintain the unit at Hemel.

    “However, I am worried that the unit is still under threat. The announcement says that the unit may still have to close temporarily if current staffing levels give rise to further safety fears. This casts doubt on whether the ?Modernisation Agency? team will provide extra staff on a permanent basis. Moreover, the Review of Acute Services in Herts and Beds has cast a shadow over the longer term future of Hemel.

    “I am angry that the unit?s survival has been undermined by the decision ? now shown to have been unnecessary – to announce its closure last October and the protracted review process since then. Qualified nurses and midwives have resigned and staff morale has been damaged. The latest NHS Performance Indicators, released last week, show that West Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which manages Hemel Hempstead Hospital, has the highest vacancy rates for qualified nurses, midwives and health visitors in England at 13.4% compared to a national figure of just 3.4%.

    “It is time someone took responsibility for this and all the other problems at West Herts NHS Trust. They could have been avoided had the Trust been run by people with medical or managerial expertise, not by failed politicians.

    “The problems have been made worse by politicisation at the centre of the NHS. Uncertainty was prolonged by the Minister, Lord Hunt, setting up an Independent Review. Then its original timetable was extended when the Minister told it to do further work. Now the Health Minister has acted before the independent review panel has been able to make its recommendations. This leaves all concerned in a state of confusion. It is no way to run a service on which people?s lives depend.?