Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, led the debate about the future of maternity services in Parliament yesterday. He questioned the Minister about the lack of proper consultation over the temporary closure of the Special Baby Care Unit at Hemel Hempstead Hospital. He also sought assurances that women and children?s services would be secured and improved in the short, medium and longer terms.
Peter Lilley said after the debate:
“I welcome the fact that the Minister (Ms Hazel Blears) at least reaffirmed that the move to Watford is to be temporary. Though the fact that she went on to say any permanent changes would be subject to proper public consultation is ominous. She also assured me that there are no plans at present to transfer the maternity service from the QEII to the Lister Hospital.
“However, the Minister failed to provide answers and assurances on several key matters. First, the Minister made no mention of the alternatives available to local NHS hospital trusts ? such as transferring qualified staff to Hemel or increasing the unit?s budget and staff complement. Secondly, she declined to comment on the composition and terms of reference of Lord Hunt?s review ? nor its undue delay.
“It was perhaps most disappointing to hear that plans for a new superhospital to serve St Albans, Hemel and Watford are not even on the Minister?s agenda. This would be the best long-term solution for the area?s needs.
“This was a useful debate which provided clarity on some issues, but I await to see what Lord Hunt?s review recommends.?