The health secretary today announced that Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust would be dissolved in line with the recommendation of the trust’s special administrators.
The trust’s Stafford Hospital will be run by University Hospitals of North Staffordshire NHS Trust and Cannock Chase Hospital will be run by the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals Trust.
However, in a written statement, Jeremy Hunt asked NHS England to identify whether consultant-led maternity services could continue at Stafford Hospital. The administrators recommended that the trust’s maternity unit should become midwife-led.
Mr Hunt said: “I am asking NHS England to identify whether consultant-led obstetrics could be sustained at Mid Staffs in a safe way in the future. In doing this, NHS England will work with local commissioners as part of their wider review of the local health economy.”
A consultant-led maternity unit at Stafford Hospital would require paediatricians to look after the most seriously ill babies. This would mean that paediatric inpatient facilities are required - a service that the administrators recommended should be decommissioned.
Local campaigners have pledged to raise a legal challenge against the proposals.
In December, the administrators recommended that the should be dissolved because it was “clinically unsustainable”.
An emergency department with reduced opening hours will continue at Stafford Hospital.
Consultant-led obstetrics and inpatient paediatric services will move to University Hospitals of North Staffordshire Trust, although Stafford Hospital will retain a paediatric assessment unit.
Mr Hunt said: “Today’s announcement secures a first-rate offer for local patients – something they were denied for too long.”
He added: “Without over £20m in subsidy funding from the Department of Health in 2012 and 2013, the trust would have been unable to pay its staff and suppliers.
“At the same time, a number of services are being operated with consultant numbers below royal college guidelines, and the trust has experienced ongoing challenges in recruiting and retaining staff. Patients deserve high quality services, which are clinically sustainable.”
He said that under the new model “approximately 90%” of the patients who go to Stafford and Cannock Hospitals would continue to go there.
The proposed model “can be a financially sustainable one” with funding from NHS England and further savings delivered by commissioners, Mr Hunt said.
Mr Hunt said it was “vital that this structural change is made as soon as possible to stabilise local health services.”
Dr Clive Peedell,co-leader of the National Health Action Party, described Mr Hunt’s decision as “unfortunately predictable”. He said: “One of the key reasons why this is happening is lack of funding of the hospital.”
Christina McAnea, head of health for Unison, added: “It is bitterly disappointing for the local community who have campaigned for local services and have rallied behind the hospital as well as for staff who have worked hard to turn the Trust around.
“The facts show that patient care has improved massively and the staff survey released only yesterday, showed that 73% would now be happy with the standard of care at the hospital if a friend or relative needed treatment – higher than the 65% national average.”