Sunday, 3 February 2013

And now for something completely different

I know I do rant on a bit from time to time (listens for a volley of protesting voices) but this week I really do feel the need to rant and shout and possibly scream! The reason...the decision by the local hospital Trust to downgrade and essentially remove Special Care and Consultant led pregnancy care from Furness General Hospital as from Tuesday. There have been numerous issues around maternity services for months if not years and these have culminated in this very unexpected decision. Even the hospital staff and GP Commissioning body did not know about this decision until it was announced at a meeting on Tuesday.

Anyone who know Barrow-in-Furness will realise that removing services to Lancaster is a horrendous and worrying action. We have a large town, many outlying rural communities all concentrated at the tip of a very long peninsula. Lancaster on a good  day is 45 minutes away and is reached by one road-the notorious A590. It is a great road until there is an accident, bad weather or major congestion and then it becomes "the longest cul-de-sac in the world!" Recently, when we had snow, people were stranded on Lindale Hill for upwards of 5 hours, just one example of what can go wrong. If there are road works delays can last for hours and there is no alternative route-unless of course you possess a hovercraft to speed you along the bay to Lancaster. This then poses a major problem for pregnant ladies-in labour and with complications. It will not just be an inconvenience... it could be the difference between life and death.

The outcomes from this decision are far reaching and although it is supposedly temporary, one does have concerns that it may lead to a permanent solution. There is a health and safety issue due to staff illness at Barrow (apparently as a result of the long term investigation into the deaths of some babies and the ongoing police investigation many of the staff are succumbing to stress). This is how the Trust are justifying their decision; because low staffing levels might result in high risk to mothers and babies. However, the question must be asked...why are staffing levels so low-beyond the illness issue? The answer, in my humble opinion -because the service has been run down, under-funded, under-staffed for years, resulting in staff stress, overwork and low morale. Obviously, the investigations (though totally justified) will have no doubt exacerbated this situation. So why have the Trust not recruited, staffed and trained more people for these crucial  and specialist roles to avert such a disaster? Probably because of cut-backs and government "fat trimming"  and unrealistic targets! Its time that essential services were exempt from this bean counting culture that rules every aspect of public sector service! 

If x costs y then stop telling us that z will do! It patently WON'T do and we all pay enough National Insurance and Tax to demand that our money is spent properly, used efficiently and put where its needed! Streamline the services yes-but (and I am sorry to single out a section of workers) trim the administration, the people who spend their day wandering about carrying important looking files under their arms, get rid of the high cost management-who obviously aren't "managing", cut down on cross county travel, stop meetings to decide on meetings to ....well you get what I mean! But most of all...do NOT keep "re-aligning","re-organising" and changing things for change sake! Its a waste of money, its rarely effective and its very bad for staff morale!

Now back to the dilemma! The Trust need immediately to obtain trained staff from somewhere-no matter what cost and they need to embark on a plan which staffs the hospital correctly to meet the needs of a very isolated community-which already has a second class provision of almost everything-and even extend a bit beyond the minimum levels and have staff to take up the shortfall when needed.

I myself am past child-bearing (big sigh of relief from Mr J) but I have friends who are not,   family members who are not and anyway-I do care about my fellow Barrovians. They deserve a top class service, where everything is done to procure a safe delivery for all. I know only too well what it is to lose a child-both in the early stages of pregnancy, but also at full term and it is not an experience I would recommend. I would additionally not wish to see others have to go through this-particularly if it is due to managerial incompetence, lack of resources, inadequate staffing or bad planning. So, the main focus of this blog today is who ever you are...please do support this cause and sign the petition and if you are local, please join in and add your voice to hundreds of others by uploading video about your experience or why you object to the removal of services from Furness General Hospital. Email your video to  savefghmaternity@gmail.com


my precious baby with Grandma and Grandad-born 9-12-93 FGH

My precious grandson with Mummy and Daddy born by C-Section 5-8-09 at FGH

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