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RCOG statement on reconfiguring South London Healthcare NHS Trust

News 31 January 2013

The Health Secretary today has announced the reconfiguration of South London Healthcare NHS Trust, following the report by the Trust Special Administrator.

He has decided to accept the recommendations of the TSA by concentrating obstetric-led services in four out of the five sites. This means that University Hospital Lewisham will no longer provide obstetric-led services.

Preparations are now being made to ensure that the existing obstetric-led units at King’s College Hospital, Princess Royal University Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital all have the appropriate capacity to provide 24/7 consultant obstetric care and one-to-one midwifery services.

The RCOG provided advice to the TSA on the minimum clinical standards needed to run safe and high quality maternity services in any secondary care setting. We accept that changes have to be made to NHS services in South East London as a result of the operating losses at some hospitals from the Private Finance Initiative. We also understand that maternity services at Lewisham hospital were safe and well-organised. Therefore, it is without surprise that there is so much local opposition from the community and healthcare professionals alike to maintain an obstetric service at this site.

Dr Tony Falconer, RCOG President said “The planning for the reconfiguration of hospital services is never easy and even harder to implement. Emotions run high as the public is often very protective about their local services, particularly when they are of high quality and the issue is sometimes politicised by different groups.

“We know that about a third of all births could be carried out in non-hospital settings1 provided the appropriate safeguards such as good patient selection criteria and pathways are in place alongside quick access to critical care and emergency transport. Research from the Birthplace study2 has also revealed to us the category of women for whom a hospital birth is the safer option.

“We will continue to support South London NHS Trust during the transition into the new structure. Their chief concern now must be to prioritise the needs of the local population and to ensure that the women of Lewisham receive the best medical care available to them.”


To view the press release issued by the Department of Health, click here.

1. RCOG Expert Advisory Group Report (2011). High Quality Women’s Health Care. A proposal for change.

2. Brocklehurst P. et al, ‘Perinatal and maternal outcomes by planned place of birth for healthy women with low risk pregnancies: the Birthplace in England national prospective cohort study’, BMJ 2011;343:d7400.