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THE Royal Hampshire County Hospital looks almost certain to be downgraded, according to new proposals.

Health bosses had been considering several options as part of an NHS shake-up that would see specialist, consultant-led hospitals and Winchester had been considered as a potential site for a new ‘super hospital’. It has now been rejected on the basis of ‘site difficulties’.

The report that will be considered by Hampshire County Council next week (January 28) has whittled the options down to two. Both could see A&E and maternity units in the city downgraded.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the RHCH, and Basingstoke and Andover hospitals, is arguing that a big expansion of Basingstoke’s current hospital is a viable option, or that an entirely new site could also be appropriate.

The latter could cost around £70million, and a patch of land between the A303, A34 and the M3 for ease of access, had been mooted.

Yesterday, a hospital spokeswoman said they could not comment on what form the plans would take, and said various options would have to be considered following a consultation.

Cllr Martin Tod sits on the county’s Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee that will consider the report.

He said: “I’m very concerned based on what I’ve read. Like everybody I know the NHS can’t stand still, but I do not yet see how the proposals are going to make things better.

“There are some tough questions that need to be asked - and not yet enough detail on what exactly is proposed. “Both options in the paper talk about 'investing in Winchester' but also refer to removing critical care services to Basingstoke or a new mid-Hampshire site.

“I also want to know what exactly this means for patients. Which patients will be affected - and how will they be affected. I want particular reassurance as to what the care will be for women who start their labour in the midwife unit in Winchester but then need extra medical intervention. Will this automatically mean being put into an ambulance and transferred to a new site?”

It is understood that regardless of where the centre is built, the services and facilities will be the same – around 300 beds treating 75,000 patients.

As reported, Winchester could be left with a walk-in unit for less serious A&E cases, and a midwife-led maternity unit for natural births only.

At present, about 3,000 women per year give birth at the RHCH which has the full range of obstetricians, paediatricians, anaesthetists and midwives.

Following a recent ‘public engagement’, a formal public consultation process will begin in February.

Mary Edwards, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The public engagement shows us that most of the public recognise that it’s safer and better to have hospitals that specialise.”