Save Our Services: It's a fight for our lives
West Cumbria's health services are under threat – and we need you to help us fight for them.
This week The Whitehaven News is joining forces with its sister papers the Times & Star, News & Star and Cumberland News to launch our Save Our Services campaign.
We demand the Success Regime rethinks its proposals announced on Monday to strip our hospitals of vital services – including maternity, children's care and stroke unit – because:
- Removing consultant-led maternity care from the West Cumberland Hospital is not safe.
- We cannot afford to lose beds from our community hospitals.
- No patients - adults or children - should be have to undertake risky transfers.
- Health chiefs - locally and nationally - have not listened to or addressed serious concerns raised across north and West Cumbria.
We now need your support to help us protest against the downgrading of consultant-led maternity care and children's services at the West Cumberland Hospital, as well as the possible reduction of intensive care beds at Whitehaven and the transfer to Carlisle of all stroke patients.
Reactions to the proposals have been swift with campaigners and the public responding with outrage, disappointment and disgust.
And now a solicitor has warned that removing 24-hour consultant-led care from the maternity department is a "potentially disastrous option''.
Angela Curran, who is an expert in birth trauma cases for Burnetts said she has covered many cases where the "absence of a consultant has led to catastrophic injury in babies''.
One of her cases was of Bailey Brown, who was left with severe cerebral palsy, following a delay in the transfer of his mother from the midwife-led maternity unit in Alnwick to Wansbeck General Hospital, in Northumbria.
He suffered a lifetime of poor health until he died on Christmas Eve 2014, aged just 11.
In 2008, Angela helped the family gain a multi-million pound settlement for Bailey to help fund his complex care needs, although the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust never accepted liability for Bailey’s injuries.
Bailey's mum, Amy Millar, 29, is now supporting our campaign to help retain 24-hour consultant-led maternity care at the West Cumberland Hospital.
She said: “I’m shocked that a midwife-led unit is even being considered. Everything can change in an instant and if the right care is not there, it causes so much devastation.
"It all went wrong for me and Bailey on the 30-mile journey from a midwife-led unit to hospital. Our life was completely flipped.
"Bailey was so brain-damaged by the delay to his delivery that he needed 24 hour care – it was not the life he was meant to be born into. We never knew how long he was going to live. I don’t want what happened to us to ever happen to anyone else.”
Angela, who is head of medical negligence at Burnetts, said the suggestion of a midwife-led unit at West Cumberland Hospital with all other births booked for delivery in Carlisle was "a potentially disastrous option for mothers and babies in West Cumbria.
"I have seen many cases, like Bailey’s, in midwife-led units in Cumbria and in the North-East, where the absence of a consultant has led to catastrophic injury in babies.
"The window for intervening when things go wrong is often just minutes.''
And she added: "Our midwives do a fantastic job but, sadly not every birth is straightforward and when difficulties arise, swift intervention from a consultant obstetrician can be the difference between a safe delivery or a tragedy.”
Amy and Bailey’s father Gareth Brown, 35, live near Alnwick, with their two other sons Roman and Freddie.
A spokesperson for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to Bailey’s family for their very sad loss eight years ago.
"We fully investigated the circumstances surrounding Bailey’s birth and co-operated fully with the coroner’s investigation at the time.”