Northern Ireland Reviews Maternity Services

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Health Minister Michael McGimpsey today announced plans to review maternity services in the Greater Belfast area.

The Eastern Board will take forward the review which will look at existing capacity and the immediate pressures faced by maternity services in Belfast and the surrounding areas.

The board will work with the Belfast and South Eastern trusts to consider how best to develop inpatient obstetric services and examine how consultant-led services will be appropriately supported by specialist paediatric services.

The minister said: "Our maternity services face a number of challenges. There is an increasing birth rate across Northern Ireland which is particularly evident in the Southern Trust area and in the east of the province. This increased demand means that maternity services must be developed if we are to meet some of the immediate pressures.

"In Belfast, it is clear we need to modernise the existing maternity and children's hospitals. However, I am faced with very difficult decisions as I only have a capital budget of ?3.3 billion, less than half of what is needed to take forward the infrastructure projects that are considered a priority.

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"We cannot deliver efficiencies and become a world-class health and social care service in run-down and unsuitable facilities. Our public deserves the very best treatment provided in modern and well-equipped buildings. This is a matter which I will be raising with my Executive colleagues as a matter of urgency."

Turning to recent investments in maternity services, the Minister said that he recently announced extra ?3.5million for Craigavon Area Hospital.

"This investment will help expand maternity services in the area. In addition, I announced an additional 12 midwifery students, dedicated to supporting maternity services in the Southern Trust, and ?500,000 to improve maternity services at Daisy Hill hospital.

"Together, these investments will mean that Craigavon Area Hospital will deliver up to 200 additional births on top of the 300 additional births I had announced earlier this year.

"Last October I also opened the new state-of-the-art ?13million Maternity Unit at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald. This new unit is capable of accommodating an extra 1,000 births per year and it is essential that we use all our spare capacity appropriately in the Greater Belfast area to meet the needs of women and their children."

Referring to maternity services in Lisburn and the proposal by the South Eastern Trust which would see inpatient obstetric services transferred to other hospitals while retaining antenatal and postnatal care at Lagan Valley, the minister said: "I want to make it clear that Lagan Valley Hospital will continue to make a valuable contribution to health service provision to the local community. As part of its review, I have asked the Eastern Board to consider the potential for a midwife-led maternity service for Lisburn.

"The hospital has a bright future ahead. That is why I am investing ?3.5million in new operating theatres. This funding underpins the hospital's role as a key local hospital. It will be a specialist centre for planned surgery for Greater Belfast and continue to provide a wide range of diagnostic and treatment services for local people including important services for women during and after pregnancy."

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