A TOP hospital consultant today explained why he was in favour of moving many maternity services from Huddersfield to Halifax.
Martin de Bono, clinical director of the maternity service, said he wanted people to understand how health bosses were trying to reduce risk with their proposed changes.
A shake-up could lead to more women giving birth at the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax rather than at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
Mr de Bono, who is consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, said: "At the moment we are unable to provide readily accessible senior medical staff cover to the labour ward from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
"We are the only trust in Yorkshire and Humberside that is not meeting this clinical standard.
"That is unacceptable."
Mr de Bono said although most pregnancies were normal and healthy, there were some women who needed to see a consultant obstetrician.
He added: "Currently, on both sites, we are not always able to guarantee that type of care, especially when those women are in labour.
"We are not able to meet this target at the moment because obstetricians are in clinics or operating."
He said if all deliveries needing a consultant were put on one site, cover could be provided.
He added: "I strongly believe this is a safer option for the women of both Calderdale and Huddersfield."
Mr de Bono said a midwife-led unit would provide care to women in labour where a straightforward delivery was expected.
He said strict criteria would be applied to find out any women who may face complications.
Mr de Bono said he was speaking out after a top judge challenged consultants to defend their plans.
Judge Graham Cliffe, a member of Huddersfield Health Authority for four years in the 1980s, claimed there was serious doubt as to whether the local NHS trust would be fulfilling its legal duty to the town if it withdrew maternity services.
Mr de Bono added: "The vast majority of women on the midwife-led unit will go through labour uncomplicated, with no problems, but we anticipate that there will be some problems, such as slow progress in labour.
"In such situations, the midwives, who are highly- trained individuals, will cope with that situation and will effect safe transfer to Calderdale while the woman is in labour.
"We categorically do not believe that we are putting the lives of women and children in danger- otherwise we would not have suggested this proposal."
Mr de Bono said if a labour in the midwife-led unit did not go to plan they would be "supported and safely transferred" to Halifax.
He said there were around 100 units in the country where occasionally emergency transfers take place, often over much further distances, without any adverse consequences.
Mr de Bono said two full maternity services on two sites were unsustainable.
He added: "We cannot stand still - it really is not an option.
"If we do not move with the times there is a very strong risk that we could lose some of this service, such as neonatal intensive care, to Leeds, Manchester or other hospitals much further away.
"I urge the people of Huddersfield and Calderdale to support the proposed change in the interests of improved care and decreasing risk."