Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Maidstone Hospital maternity plans sent for review

Campaigners gathered outside County Hall in Maidstone on Friday

Plans to remove some maternity services from Maidstone Hospital are to be reviewed by the Secretary of State for Health.

Kent County Council's health watchdog said it had referred the decision to Andy Burnham because of growing public anxiety over the plans.

The changes would see consultants for expectant mothers moved to the Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells from 2011.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said the move would raise standards.

The county council's health and overview scrutiny committee (HOSC) made the decision during a meeting at County Hall in Maidstone.

'Public anxieties'

More than 20,000 people have signed a petition to keep full maternity services at Maidstone Hospital

The NHS Trust said it had proposed the changes because it was unable to provide good consultant-led care across two hospitals and did not have the required number of professionals to serve duplicate units in the future.

Outpatient services for women and children, antenatal and day care surgery and a new midwife-led birthing unit would remain at Maidstone Hospital.

Dr Wilson Bolsover, the trust's clinical lead for women and children's services, said he "accepted" the HOSC's decision.

He said: "We understand the public anxieties that have been raised by these changes and will work just as hard to help reassure the public that change is for the better and will provide higher standards of care for all."

More than 20,000 people have signed a petition to keep full maternity services at Maidstone Hospital.

Campaigner Blaise Matthews said: "I think it's a preposterous idea for everybody to have to go all the way to Tunbridge Wells from Maidstone when there is a local hospital there that is fit for purpose."

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