Changes ‘inevitable’ for Limavady expectant mothers

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EXPECTANT mothers from the Limavady area may be best served by a maternity unit at the Causeway Hosptial, according to the area’s MP, Gregory Campbell.

Mr Campbell asked the Health Minister whether “under any new possible arrangement” between the Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry and the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, expectant mothers from Limavady could use the maternity unit in Coleraine.

Mr Campbell suggested that if a maternity unit could be based at the Causeway Hospital which would attract expectant mothers from the Limavady area, this would ‘free up’ Altnagelvin “while sustaining numbers at the Causeway.”

This follows news earlier last month that the man heading up the biggest review of health services in Northern Ireland in a generation, John Compton, has said that the consultant-led maternity unit at the Causeway Hospital is likely to close in the next three to five years. The Northern Trust, who currently administer the hospital in Coleraine, have denied that there are any plans to close the hospital despite Mr Compton’s comments.

The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, DUP MLA Edwin Poots has previously pointed to staffing problems at the Causeway Hospital. He said that creating a network of consultants between Altnagelvin and Causeway would be one possible way of tackling the problem. Mr Poots has also suggested moving the Causeway Hospital to the Western Trust in order to encourage closer links with Altnagelvin “if that works better”.

Currently, patients from Limavady and throughout the Roe Valley travel to both the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine and Altnagelvin in Londonderry for treatment – meaning they are spread across two Health and Social Care Trusts. The Causeway Hospital in Coleraine is currently administered by the Northern Trust, while Altnagelvin in Londonderry comes under the Western Trust.

This is a move which has gained support from SDLP MLA for East Londonderry John Dallat, who recently told the Sentinel that it would provide a “more streamlined service” for people in Limavady.

Now, DUP MP Gregory Campbell has also entered the debate, asking the Health Minister whether “it would be possible to operate a maternity unit based at the Causeway Hospital, which would attract expectant mothers from the Limavady area, freeing up Altnagelvin while sustaining numbers at the Causeway.”

Speaking to the Sentinel, Mr Campbell continued: “I think it is one for consideration but the first thing is that the Minister has said that there is some merit in the it.

“The people in Causeway are pleased that they are at least discussing it. Somewhere like Limavady is almost exactly in the middle of Altnagelvin and Causeway. I don’t think expectant mothers in Limavady would mind either way, as long as the service and staff is professional and there are no complications.

“Even if it was a matter of choice for expectant mothers, this would assist Altnagelvin to reduce pressure. It would help sustain numbers at Causeway so if someone is going to cut services in the future that’s something they would have to look at.

“It would help both hospitals. If the expectant mothers in Limavady are happy with it it is a win-win all round.”

Responding to Mr Campbell’s written question, his party colleague Edwin Poots stated that change is “inevitable.” He said: “My Department’s recently published document, A Strategy for Maternity Care in Northern Ireland 2012-2018, recognises that a change in the model of maternity care is inevitable. Any change will need to complement the broader aspects of the reconfiguration of community and hospital services, as outlined in Transforming Your Care, which is being formally consulted on at present.

“The Maternity Strategy makes clear that it will be for Health and Social Care (HSC) organisations to consider how best to maximise choice for local women and, where appropriate, develop a regional networked approach, with cross boundary flows between Trusts and other jurisdictions. Such an approach may improve local access and enhance care for women. It may make some maternity units more sustainable and reduce pressure on others.

“It is for the HSC Board, as commissioner of services and working in collaboration with Trusts and other organisations to lead on the Strategy’s implementation.”