Update from James Sumner, Chair of the Women’s Hospital Services in Liverpool Programme Board

13 March 2024

As a valued partner and stakeholder, I am writing as chair of the Programme Board to keep you updated about the work of the programme, and set out next steps for the year ahead.


As you will know, the purpose of the programme is to look at the issues facing hospital maternity and gynaecology services in Liverpool. The city’s unique arrangements mean that these services, which are delivered at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, are isolated from other specialist adult services that women need to access at other hospitals in the city.

This presents significant clinical risks and challenges, and impacts on the care given to women and their families. For example, the arrangements can create delays in care, and there is sometimes a need to transfer women between different hospitals, often when they are at their most vulnerable. We are committed to finding a long-term solution that will improve the quality and safety of services, giving women the care they need and deserve, wherever they are being treated.

Hospital staff manage these risks in a number of ways, and there have been developments on the Liverpool Women’s site over recent years to improve services. Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (which operates the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Aintree University Hospital) are working together closely to ensure services are as safe and effective as possible in the short to medium term, which includes the two trusts sharing clinical expertise.

Delivering this work and next steps

The Women’s Hospital Services in Liverpool Programme Board reports to the Women’s Services Committee, which is a sub-committee of NHS Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board (ICB).

We have now agreed the plan for the first phase of the programme, which is built on the principles of ensuring openness and transparency in how we develop potential options for the longer-term. Central to this is the engagement and involvement of patients, carers, families, key stakeholders and the public in shaping the future design of services.

We anticipate that the next steps for the programme will be:

  1. Development of clinical case for change – spring/summer 2024: This document will identify the challenges and risks facing services, but it will not make any proposals for how they might look in the future.
  2. Publication of clinical case for change and start of public engagement – autumn 2024: When the case for change is published, we’ll hold a period of public engagement to give people an opportunity to share their views.
  3. Service design – winter 2024/25: Using feedback from the public engagement, we’ll work with staff, those with lived experience of services, and others, to start looking at how we might design services for the future.

At this point, we will use the engagement feedback and outputs of the design work to decide on next steps. Any future options development work would be likely to begin in early 2025.

I want to be clear that at this stage, no decisions about how these services might look in the future have been made. We are only committed to a process that will help shape the future service design.

We need to work through each step before moving to the next, which means that timescales are subject to change. As there will be a general election in the UK by the end of January 2025, the timescales might also be impacted by the pre-election period.


It’s really important that we involve those who use and depend on women’s services throughout this programme of work, including the public, patients, carers and families. We’re putting in a number of measures to support this:

  • Public advisors: In May we will be appointing two people to act as independent public advisors to our involvement process for the Women’s Hospital Services in Liverpool Programme. These funded roles will represent wider patient and public voices, and will sit on the Women’s Services Committee and jointly chair a Lived Experience Panel.
  • Lived Experience Panel: During May we will also begin recruiting to a wider panel of people with experience of women’s services (either as a patient, carer, or family member), who can help inform both communications and engagement planning, and the wider women’s services programme. Members will be volunteers.
  • Virtual Reference Group: Over the summer we’ll be establishing a Virtual Reference Group, to allow people to sign up via email for updates and details of opportunities to share their views.

You can find more information about the programme on the Women’s Services page of the NHS Cheshire and Merseyside website, and information is shared in the monthly NHS Cheshire and Merseyside email update, which anyone can sign up for here.

We’ll issue a further update in May, as we start to put our involvement arrangements in place.

Yours sincerely

James Sumner

Chair, Women’s Hospital Services in Liverpool Programme Board