Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Maternity move from Maidstone Hospital passed to panel

Campaigners opposing the changes have staged protests

Plans to move some maternity services from one Kent hospital to another have been referred to an independent panel.

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

Maidstone would have a birthing unit, while mothers with complications would have to travel 17 miles.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust said it remained convinced the plans were in the best interests of patients.

Last month, it was announced the proposals were to be reviewed by the Secretary of State for Health.

'Raising standards'

Andy Burnham has now referred the issue to the independent reconfiguration panel.

The trust said it would be "working closely" with the panel over the next few weeks and months to explain the benefits of the proposal and provide any information it wanted.

"It is important to stress that the vast majority of women's and children's services will remain at Maidstone. These will include all existing outpatient services, antenatal and day case surgery plus a new midwifery-led birthing unit.

"The changes being made in 2011 will raise standards of care for women and children considerably," a statement said.

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