PEOPLE are being asked for their views on a major shake-up of care which could see the downgrading of maternity and A&E units at Winchester’s NHS Hospital.

Health bosses are considering centralising some consultant-led services in a new emergency hospital north of the city which would take some services from the Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust (HHFT), which runs the RHCH, Andover War Memorial Hospital and Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital, has been drawing up plans since October, 2011.

They argue changes are needed to keep services safe and financially viable in the future.

Mary Edwards, chief executive of HHFT, said: “Clinical evidence shows that some aspects of hospital services will need to be centralised in one place.

“We are asking people what matters to them about hospital services to help shape plans for how services will be delivered in future.”

The new acute hospital would have consultants on site 24-hours a day, seven days a week and access to specialist equipment.

As previously reported, clinicians have proposed to centralise consultant-led maternity care, specialist baby care, in-patient children’s care and “blue light” emergencies such as heart attacks and major trauma.

But this would leave Winchester with a midwife-led maternity unit for natural births only and walk-in unit for less serious A&E cases.

There would also be increased travelling for relatives which can cause problems and expense, especially in rural areas.

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

Now local people are being asked what is important to them under in five different scenarios, including giving birth and emergency care.

Questionnaires are available on the trust website:

Mindy Noble, chair of the Maternity Services Liaison Committee and a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) counsellor, urged locals to take part.

Mrs Noble predicted less than 500 women would choose to give birth in a standalone midwife-led maternity centre at the RHCH.

“A lot of women are looking for safety and reassurance that there will be an obstetrician to give medical help if needed. You can’t have an epidural or Caesarean-section in a midwife-led unit.”

Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP, Steve Brine, has previously called for the RHCH to keep the full range of maternity services and emergency care.

But now the Tory MP says “some compromises” may be needed.

“My aspirations for health services locally haven't changed, I want safe and sustainable services that command the confidence of those who use them and the clinicians who work in them.”

The initial consultation ends on November 30. Health chiefs will then draw up proposals for formal public consultation.