Healthcare for Women and Babies at risk in Liverpool Hospitals Merger Proposals

There are discussions, reported in the Health Service Journal on February 24th 2022 to merge hospitals in Liverpool including Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

As we come up to International Women’s Day on March 8th, let’s raise our voices once again in support of this Women’s hospital. For all our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and lovers and every precious baby.

The report says “The prospect of creating a £2bn ‘group’ of hospital providers in Liverpool is under formal discussion, senior sources have told HSJ. The sources said talks between six NHS trusts in the city were convened this month by the integrated care system leaders in Cheshire and Mersey. Discussions have so far focused on creating shared governance processes or organising capacity, workforce and patient flows, as well as finding ways to expand the city’s relatively limited healthcare research sector. HSJ understands the prospect of joint leadership or formal mergers are not on the agenda at this stage but could represent a natural progression in the longer term. David Dalton, interim chief executive of Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, has form in creating Hospital mergers and created one of the first by establishing the Northern Care Alliance, by bringing together Salford Royal FT and Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust, which have since formally merged”.

One of the comments in the health service journal rejoiced in the profit-making potential of this merger

A city-wide group is a great opportunity for private patient growth.
Working with many Trusts over recent years has demonstrated the commercial
opportunities and service benefits that a group can leverage. These include sharing operational and commercial leadership, reducing unit costs of back office overheads, co-branding and enabling consultants to work where the NHS 24/7 infrastructure can meet the particular private patient service gaps that cannot be offered by the independent sector.

Campaigners for women’s and children’s health will not stand idly by. We demand more funding for the NHS, a simpler management structure without the involvement of private profit. We have seen the loss of beds, of A and E departments, staff shortages and overwork. We will not tolerate further cuts. In this terrible time for the NHS, what we have, we hold!

We need a focus on the health and healthcare of women and babies. The national maternity scandals, the decrease in women’s life expectancy in good health, falling life expectancy, the long-term neglect of key issues in young and older women’s health, and the mass underfunding of maternity, all point to the need for a women’s hospital. There is a gender gap in healthcare in this country. There is a gender gap in medical research and in pharma research to suit women’s bodies. So, merging Liverpool Women’s Hospitals is not acceptable.

We are fighting against the Health and Care Bill and the Integrated Care System brought in ahead of the passing of the Bill. At the heart of the Bill and the ICS, project is rationing, denial of care, and introducing charging.

Women’s health care requires improvement nationally and locally. Too many women are left to live with debilitating illnesses and injuries because research and resources have been denied. Too many babies die at birth or in late pregnancy. Gender bias in healthcare is a critical, well-documented problem that endangers people’s lives and well-being. It is a component of sexism, which is a major cause of inequity worldwide, including health inequity. There is a gender bias in healthcare “Gender bias in healthcare is a critical, well-documented problem that endangers people’s lives and well-being. It is a component of sexism, which is a major cause of inequity worldwide, including health inequity.”

Black Asian and ethnic minority women are discriminated against in healthcare. Liverpool and Merseyside have one of the oldest Black communities in the UK. Liverpool women’s Hospital is far from perfect but it is seen as a safe place by many in the black communities.

The British Medical Association described the class inequalities in healthcare for women

There are clear and stark inequalities in health between women, which are related
to socio-economic status, ethnicity and geographic region.
–Across different stages of women’s lives there are different social and economic
factors which drive health and associated health inequalities; including experiences
during early childhood, education, family building and working life and through
retirement and into older age.
– The broad health workforce must take full account of the social and economic
factors which shape women’s lives and health at different stages of life

We will insist that the Cheshire and Merseyside NHS management does indeed take full account of women’s needs.

In the Ockendon report, Donna Ockendon needed to demand that every trust ensure that the trust had a board member responsible for maternity. What a scandal that it needed to be said. imagine a hospital that did its planning without reference to maternity!

Maternity care represents the health of two lives and must be given an elevated level of priority.

The Independent webinar on maternity shows the large problems in maternity as described by Donna Ockendon and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG).

We support the staff of the NHS. We are forever in their debt for their work in the NHS. We honour the work they have done and continue to do in the pandemic, under-equipped, underpaid and overworked.

We do not, however, support the management of the NHS, either under the 2012 Act or in the ICS system. Let us recall just some of the local failures:

  1. The New Royal Hospital. Overdue, over budget, badly planned, with the construction company Carillion going bust with no one in Liverpool noticing (except the workers on site who kept reporting issues but who listens to building workers?) badly constructed and still not open. The scrutiny that the contract to build the hospital should have had, was simply not there. Has anyone been held accountable? The Echo reported the problems in the Royal here (with videos).
  2. The private midwife company that went bankrupt leaving mothers, staff and the hospitals that had to pick  up the pieces in the lurch, and worse, there were babies’ lives at risk.
  3. In-Hospital acquisition of Covid in the two branches of the Royal/Aintree merger saw a damning CQC report /

Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has also exhibited a growing problem with probable HCAIs [Hospital Acquired Infections]. While the trust continues to show persistently high total numbers of new patients in hospital with COVID-19 – a 7-day average of around 40 per day – admissions from the community have slowly fallen from a peak of around 31 per day on the 7th of October. This general slow fall in community admissions has been masked in the aggregate, however, by an increase in probable HCAIs that began in early October, and peaked at around 13 per day in the most recent week of reporting. In the last week of reporting, probable HCAIs made up 27% of all new patients in hospital with COVID-19.” Remember at this point hospital visitors were not allowed.

Resources taken away in the pandemic, like health visitors, have not been returned. Nationally we have an acute shortage of midwives, nurses and doctors.

Liverpool Women’s Hospital focuses on the health of women and babies. Some men are treated there for breast cancer, genetics and fertility. It is a women’s place and we do not want to give it over to a mass merger, especially in a time of discrimination against women in healthcare, and when the NHS local management did not manage the earlier merger well at all. New resources at LWH like the neo natal unit, the new imaging provision, and the wonderful robot surgery can indeed improve women’s and babies’ health. This merger cannot.

There is no evidence that large scale management works better than smaller units. Specialisms, though, do work, and the Women’s is a specialist hospital, specialising in women.

Health care is an investment that repays every penny spent. Health spending should be determined by need. Poor health care is an expense to the individual, to families, to the community and to the economy. It has been estimated that the Government could save billions by improving the health of working-age adults. Being in work leads to better physical and mental health, and we could save the UK up to £100 billion a year by reducing working-age ill health.

Poor care at birth costs the baby, the mother, the family, the schools, the NHS, and society at large.

There is a class health gap in this country, there are serious health issues in Liverpool.” Liverpool is one of the most deprived areas of the country, with more than 4 out of 10 people living in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in England.  Deprivation is strongly associated with poor health outcomes, from childhood through to old age” One Liverpool).

We have had ten years or more of cuts, staff shortages and mergers. This has not improved healthcare. We cannot accept more moves to make “economies” when we need more money and better-quality services. The management of health in Liverpool has not been good. In this time of crisis and enforced change, we do not need another merger.

Nor do we accept preparation for privatisation

Women’s health care requires improvement nationally and locally. Too many women are left to live with debilitating illnesses and injuries because research and resources have been denied. Too many babies die at birth or in late pregnancy.

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