Tatton Liberal Democrats have been very concerned, ever since the decision was made by East Cheshire NHS Trust in March 2020 – just as the COVID pandemic surged across the country – to suspend birthing services at Macclesfield Hospital, that this “temporary” removal of a vital, local health service might become permanent. Events since then have proved us right to be concerned: an initial 6-month suspension turned into 12-months, then 18-months, and, now more than that. This is simply not good enough!
Jonathan Smith, who has been leading this campaign on behalf of the local Party, has been: raising issues directly with the Chief Executive of the Trust; asking questions at the virtual, public Board meetings; writing letters to the local paper; and asking people to let him know of the impact that this suspension has been making on their lives. We have also raised the profile of this campaign through our FOCUS leaflets.
The Liberal Democrats appear to be the only political party interested in the future of these services at Macclesfield. Given the long history of repeated threats to the future of services at our local hospital, especially Maternity, the enormous pressures faced by an under-funded and under-staffed NHS during the period of the pandemic, and the risk that some health and social care services are ‘allowed’ to wither away under cover of COVID, we are committed to continuing the fight to bring back full birthing services to Macclesfield Hospital as soon as possible.
Jonathan says: “This campaign is not about attacking individuals, or even the Trust Board itself; they have a complex and challenging set of responsibilities. However, what we do know is that, when NHS services are under threat, they can only be saved by strong, effective, and informed, local campaigns. If someone doesn’t fight for the services and for the skilled staff who provide them, things will change permanently, sometimes by default.”
This campaign reflects the Liberal Democrats’ long-time commitment to “services as local as possible”. It is particularly relevant in 2021, as the Government’s White Paper on Health and Social Care extols the virtues of local, not centralised, services. We will keep the public’s attention on this issue, and continue to challenge the Trust’s decision-making and priorities.
Jonathan attended the recent (July 2021), virtual Board meeting of East Cheshire NHS Trust, in order to find answers to why the suspension of birthing services at Macclesfield Hospital seems certain to over-run yet another promised target date for resumption.
He says "It is clear, from what I heard, and from the Chief Executive Officer’s answer to my question, that the Board is rightly concerned that these vital, local health services are unlikely to be started again until Christmas; fully 21 months after they were stopped."
"It was also clear that the pressure on the Board is growing: there were three of us as members of the public who had submitted questions to the Board – all about maternity services; it was reported that, far from bookings at Macclesfield reducing since the suspension, they have, in fact, stayed at pre-COVID levels; although the feedback on the quality of care at other hospitals has been good, many families have complained about how far they have to travel; and the Trust’s midwifery staff were reported as becoming increasingly frustrated at the whole situation. "
"Whilst the Trust is facing very challenging times, and they have many competing priorities, the Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case, loudly and openly, on behalf of families across Cheshire, that the return of birthing services to Macclesfield Hospital should take precedence."