A shortage of doctors may lead to a maternity unit Oxfordshire becoming midwife-led from next month.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Horton General Hospital, has scheduled an extraordinary meeting of its board of directors on 31 August to decide whether to change the unit to midwife-led only.
The trust has faced an ongoing recruitment crisis at Horton’s maternity unit, having held three recruitment rounds for the middle grade obstetric posts since the start of the financial year. It warned that from the end of September, six out of the eight required doctor’s posts may still be vacant.
Trust medical director Tony Berendt told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal that “safety is our number one priority” and if the trust cannot fill the vacancies it will “have no alternative” but to consider suspending doctor-led services.
Horton is one of the smallest NHS obstetric units in the country, with an average of just four births a day.
Mr Berendt said it was “fair to say” that the long-term future of the area’s maternity services was still in the mix with regards to local sustainability and transformation plans, but any future reconfiguration would follow the “proper process” including consultation.
In a statement, the trust admitted that a lack of training opportunities compared to other hospitals, including its own larger John Radcliffe Hospital, meant Horton was “proving a less attractive option for would-be employees”.
If the trust chooses to suspend obstetric services, it said Horton would continue to offer midwife-led maternity services, antenatal and postnatal appointments, and a home birth service.
Information provided to HSJ