THE Independent Reconfiguration Panel, the independent expert in health service change, today makes recommendations to ensure the provision of safe, effective and accessible maternity services for the people of Calderdale and Huddersfield.
In a review, the panel agrees that the proposals set out by the local NHS in its consultation document, `Looking to the future ... your chance to have your say', represent the most appropriate way to deliver safe and sustainable maternity services in the long term.
The IRP recommends that midwife-led units should be available to women and their families at both Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital.
Women should also be able to access consultant-led support at Calderdale Royal Hospital. Home births should be available to all women where appropriate.
Dr Peter Barrett, who chairs the Panel, said: "The current configuration of maternity services does not provide an optimal or sustainable service for all women.
"Our report highlights that the future service will offer women living in Calderdale and Huddersfield a safer, more sustainable maternity service.
"It is also essential that funding of women's and children's community services is in place, effective inter-hospital transport is provided and agreed transfer times are met by the ambulance service."
The IRP's recommendation is subject to a number of caveats:
* Accessible, community based services are essential in addressing the needs of the most deprived women in the communities of Calderdale and Huddersfield.
* Improvements to midwifery in the community should not be dependent on funding arising from the acquisition of certain Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts standards but should be given priority at the earliest stages of the service changes.
* Transport is a vital component in the successful delivery of healthcare. The IRP is also recommending that innovative transport links are expanded and sustainable inter-hospital transport is provided.
* The Yorkshire Ambulance service must be a key partner in the implementation of the maternity service proposals as strict adherence to agreed transfer times will be essential.
* Successful implementation of the proposals will only be achieved if key players, including the board and the membership of the Foundation Trust, give them their full support.
Throughout the review, the IRP's focus has been on the patient and the quality of patient care. The IRP's recommendation will provide women and their families with real choice in how they wish to give birth safely.