THE future of Winchester’s maternity ward appears uncertain as health chiefs develop a plan for a new hospital.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Royal Hampshire County Hospital, has begun discussing options for maternity services at its three sites, the others being Basingstoke and Andover.

Full maternity units staffed by midwives and doctors are available at both Florence Portal House in Winchester, and Basingstoke. There is a midwifery-led birthing centre at Andover.

The trusts clinical director of women’s health Avideah Nejad has said that all three locations “present challenges” and there is an opportunity to reshape the services under its Hampshire Together: Modernising our Hospitals and Health Services programme.

“We are proud of the services we offer to women and families, but we believe there may be an opportunity to do better if we could reconfigure the way services are managed,” said Miss Nejad, who is also consultant obstetrician.

“We would like to offer women in our care a full range of choices, including midwifery-led birthing units alongside the maternity units at Basingstoke and Winchester. All three sites have accommodation that present challenges for the modern requirements of a maternity service and the current facilities do not allow us to progress our ambitions of being a service of excellence with a consistent range of birthplace choices for women.

“Managing and sustaining two fairly small units presents challenges in prioritising care for women with the greatest need. Developing specialist skills and delivering obstetric clinics for women with higher risk factors such as diabetes and multiple births is not always straightforward because of the way the service is set up.

“Our neonatal units have similar problems and there is a very real threat that we will no longer be able to provide for the more complex aspects of care for women and their babies unless we do something differently.”

The trust now wants to gather opinion on the future of maternity services and will host of an online public engagement event tomorrow at 1pm (June 19).

Miss Nejad added: “We are still in the process of thinking about what the alternatives to the current system might be as part of the Hampshire Together programme – and we really want to hear from families who have used our services recently to learn about their experiences and listen to what they would like us to be able to do differently.”

Steve Brine, MP for Winchester and Chandler’s Ford, is urging Winchester residents to have their say and stop any potential closure at the city’s hospital.

He said: “As I have said previously, this is a welcome exercise if it is a genuine attempt to listen to people on future health services.

“In reality, I suspect a very well formed view has already been taken but no-one should hide from the fact a replacement hospital for Basingstoke, which is what Hampshire Together has as its centre-piece, will have far-reaching consequences as clinical logic follows its course.

“There is obviously a lot going on at the moment, and the public is understandably distracted on all sorts of levels due to Covid-19, but I cannot stress enough that now is the time to speak up about the services you value in Winchester and how you want the local NHS to look in the future.”

You can hear more about the challenges facing maternity services, and how these could be overcome, during a special online engagement event taking place at 1pm on Friday 19 June. If you would like to take part you can register by visiting