Six month stay of execution for maternity services at Darlington Memorial Hospital

Closure-threatened hospital maternity services have received a stay of execution after a decision over their future was delayed for at least six months.

Board members of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) have agreed to postpone the possibility of any service closures at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

A trust spokeswoman said the delay would allow “more sustainable options” to be explored, but last night Darlington MP Jenny Chapman warned the continuing uncertainty is damaging staff morale.

There have been fears over services at Darlington Memorial Hospital since a draft of the region’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) was published, prompted by NHS England, which could see the hospital lose its accident and emergency and other departments.

The start of the formal consultation process on the STP proposals was postponed earlier this year, but the plans remain very much on the table.

A CDDFT spokeswoman last night confirmed maternity services would remain unchanged for at least another six months. She said: “At a meeting of the Board of CDDFT on July 12, clinical leaders from obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics shared the pressures being faced by these services. The trust board recognised the pressures and that these were being seen not just within County Durham and Darlington but also more widely across the region.

“The board agreed to measures which will support the services so they can continue as they are for a period of six months initially, while more sustainable options can be further explored.”

Ms Chapman welcomed the temporary delay in making a final decision, but said: “I think the longer the uncertainty goes on the worse it gets but I would rather they postponed the decision than make the decision to downgrade the hospital – to that extent I welcome it.

Full story in The Northern Echo, 20 July 2017