Lets celebrate one victory in the fight to save our NHS. Twenty five years since Liverpool Women’s hospital opened, five years since the threat of closure first reared its ugly head, and the hospital is still here. It is still not fully safe from closure, or relocation and dispersal but we celebrate where we are today.
If we fight for something sometimes we do win.
We wish Many Happy Returns to Liverpool Women’s Hospital! The new building is 25 years old. In February 1995 the first baby was born in the new purpose-built Crown Street site of the Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Since then about 200 thousand babies have been born there at a rate of 8,000 babies per year.
We thank all the staff for their work at this hospital, whatever their role.
Many women, many babies, and a few men and boys, have been treated there for many conditions other than childbirth. The genetics specialism is just one of the innovations Liverpool Women’s Hospital has developed for the area.
The old Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Catherine Street and two Victorian maternity hospital buildings, Oxford Street and Mill Road, merged at the new location. Local historian Mike Royden wrote a history of the old hospitals.
History of the old Hospitals written by local historian Mike Royden.
It was not until later that Fazackerly Maternity Unit also moved to the new site.
Liverpool Women’s serves not just Liverpool but the wider region and is a centre of expertise meaning it treats some of the most complex patients.
The hospital was built on land owned by Liverpool people, built by the skill of Liverpool builders, and staffed by workers from Liverpool and across the world. It is, like the NHS, the property of the people. The Crown Street site is low rise on a site set back from the road but walkable from the city centre and the Royal Hospital. It is one mile from the main acute hospital, Liverpool Royal, down a straight road. Despite this it is repeatedly described as “isolated” by those who wish to close it. Its not isolated at all.
The site for building the new hospital was provided by the city council. There had been council housing previously on the land. In that estate a young disabled man, David Moore was run down and killed by a police vehicle. The police were driving vehicles directly at protesting youth in the 1980s “riots” but David was just going into a family house. For more details of the causes of the riots see Loosen the Shackles First Report of the Liverpool 8 Inquiry Into Race Relations in Liverpool.
Unions and local activists were determined there would be no colour bar, no discrimination in the building of the site, determined that local black workers would be part of the project. It linked to Project Rosemary to make good the wrongs done to the area. Unions were successful in involving local labour in the construction. It is now a place were local Black and Asian women tell campaigners that they feel safe.
The hospital had state of the art buildings and equipment. It pleased patients with beautiful rooms, layout and equipment, It was a real contrast with the Victorian buildings it replaced.
More importantly, it was respectful of and celebrated the women and babies treated there. The staff were pioneers in developing respectful caring treatments. Old ladies, expert carers themselves, loved the atmosphere at the new Women’s Hospital. Women in Liverpool who needed care at that hospital received the best available care in the world.
Thousands of staff have been trained there and thousands work there; Staff were proud to be part of what became a world-class women’s hospital.
Liverpool Women’s Hospital was built without a PFI, so does not have that debt hung around its neck. It was built before the madness of the internal markets, PFI mortgages on hospitals and massive outsourcing of staff.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive outcomes from the hospital, there have been some problems at the hospital since it opened. It is not fairyland. Most of these problems, in common in the whole NHS, are caused by financial cuts and underfunding, by the internal market,( introduced by New Labour) cuts in the number of beds, outsourcing of ancillary staff, poor management decisions and more. There were some low points. One was a terrible case of a surgeon whose work caused dreadful harm to many women who suffer to this day. At one point there were not sufficient midwives employed. By 2015 Monitor, the NHS quality body at the time published this which basically gave the women’s a fresh start.
Liverpool Women’s Hospital remains a treasured possession for Liverpool women, and for nearly as many dads. As Julie Taylor from Merseyside Pensioners put it “In these troubled times, what we have we hold!” Campaigners want much more investment, much higher staffing ratios, better pay and conditions and more respect for the staff, better imaging and diagnostics, more research into many aspects of women and babies health, (all of which are described elsewhere in this blog) but we will not see Liverpool Women’s Hospital closed!
5 years ago a Panorama programme revealed plans to close one Liverpool Hospital, and our campaign to save this hospital started. The Liverpool Echo reported it with the headline “Exclusive Liverpool Women’s Hospital could close, city’s top NHS boss admits” and “Future of Liverpool Women’s Hospital uncertain after reports deem it “financially unviable” In 2017 the proposals were reported by the BBC and the Echo twice. It was also reported on labour net here.
The management of the NHS in Liverpool has been pushing for the end of the Crown Street site. They even produced documents listing PFI as an option. Fortunately, the scandal of PFI was crystal clear before they got the go-ahead. Most recently they have asked for a rebuild on the benighted Prescott Street site of the Royal, so badly built by Carillion.
We call for the existing site of Liverpool Women’s Hospital to be upgraded, and for the hospital to continue to work on the garden site. We want a Women’s Hospital as we have had in Liverpool for more than 100 years.
The disastrous Conservative health care “reforms”, were well underway by the time of the first announcement of the threats to Liverpool Women’s Hospital. There have been many closures and attempted closures of maternity units across the country since then, but so far we have saved Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Liverpool Women’s Hospital is important as a specialist hospital for women’s health. Women endure many years of ill health, In the UK the average life expectancy in good health is only 62 years old. There is not enough appropriate research as to how this can be prevented. Women’s health matters and we need specialist women’s health care.
Chronic ill-health conditions also plague many young women. Endometriosis is just one example of a chronic debilitating illness that required major research to improve current treatment and let us live our lives in good health.
Heart disease in women is a major killer. The British Heart Foundation writes;
“Heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year and is the single biggest killer of women worldwide. Despite this, it’s often considered a man’s disease.”
Heart disease is a significant factor in maternal deaths in childbirth. All of this means that we need a women’s hospital to focus on our health issues.
Save Liverpool Women’s Hospital Campaign calls for major investment on the Crown Street Site, including in blood, labs and imaging, and longer term intensive care if that is truly needed. The completion of the neonatal unit is a good step in protecting the future of this hospital.
This is a hospital at the heart of Liverpool. Paul McCartney has added his voice to the thousands of people who have signed petitions and joined marches to save this hospital and will continue to fight for it. We have been part and parcel of the national fight for the NHS, for maternity rights, for better chances for babies, and for women’s health. As Nye Bevan said of the NHS, it will survive as long as there are people prepared to fight for it and so it is with Liverpool women’s Hospital.