September 22 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Health chiefs have delayed a consultation on the future of maternity services in north Essex over fears the issue will be used as a political football in the Clacton by-election.
The North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (NEE CCG) is asking the public how it wants to see units in Colchester, Harwich and Clacton run permanently after temporary changes were introduced in June.
A series of exhibitions, questionnaires and other events will begin from October 15 – a fortnight later than originally planned.
The delay is to stop the consultation clashing with the Clacton by-election, being held on October 9, allowing voters to focus on selecting their next MP and preventing candidates from using the review as a political football.
A NEE CCG spokesman confirmed the delay, and said: “The start date for the consultation has been put back slightly to allow local residents who may want to get involved in discussions and in let us know their experience and views on the issue a proper chance to do so in the new local circumstances.”
Birthing units in Clacton and Harwich were closed in March when midwives there were transferred to the central delivery suite at Colchester General Hospital to cover a staffing shortfall, in a move which sparked widespread opposition.
The Tendring centres were re-opened in July but only during daytime hours and on an on-call basis overnight, instead of being staffed 24/7.
An external review found there were insufficient births at the Tendring units to justify keeping them open 24 hours.
However before the change can be made permanent the NEECCG must go to public consultation on the plans.
There are two options being presented, either that the Tendring units are open 24/7 or bwteen 8am-8pm and then on demand overnight.
The consultation ends on December 10.