Health Secretary’s pledge: You won’t lose out on maternity move

THE Health Secretary has given the thumbs up to a multi-million pound maternity unit which will spell an end to babies being born in WGC’s QE2 Hospital.

On Wednesday Andy Burnham visited the existing unit, staff, new parents and their babies, at the Lister, Stevenage – which is set to get a �16.4m expansion, to be completed by the end of 2011.

Mr Burnham told the Welwyn Hatfield Times he was confident the new unit would cater for all women in the area – including those from Welwyn Hatfield where the QE2’s maternity unit will shut in favour of the new one.

He said: “I am very proud of what they are doing here and pleased to see how things have moved on.

“Changes to health services is always a very delicate thing and I understand how strongly people feel with this issue, but we should be very proud of what is happening here.”

Mr Burnham added: “Having seen the plans, when people see the unit and the quality of care they will be given they may think differently.”

However, Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps has criticised the forthcoming closing of the exisiting QE2 maternity unit.

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He said: “Local residents won’t be celebrating the Health Secretary’s visit to see the latest maternity unit in Stevenage.

“It simply reminds us that Welwyn Hatfield has the fastest population growth in Hertfordshire, yet this Labour government has chosen to construct the new maternity services at the Lister Hospital in order to close down those at the QE2 Hospital.”

Mr Shapps added: “We’re fed up with this Government ignoring Welwyn Hatfield and the sooner they bring on an election the better.”

The Lister Hospital maternity unit will cater for more than 5,500 births each year by women in east and north Hertfordshire and south Bedfordshire.

Chief executive of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust Nick Carver said: “Our front line doctors and midwives were excited to tell Mr Burnham about the new service, of which they have been at the heart when it comes to its planning and design. Once opened, the new unit will bring together specialist maternity and neonatal staff onto a single site, providing women with improved options in how they give birth.”