THE failure of health chiefs to inform North West Herts Community Health Council (CHC) of plans to move maternity services in the district have led to a letter of complaint being sent to the Secretary of State for Health.

At an extraordinary meeting of the patients' watchdog last Wednesday, committee members agreed the Hertfordshire Partnership Trust, which runs the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at Hemel Hempstead Hospital, and the West Herts Hospitals Hospitals Trust, which controls in-patient maternity and gynaecology services, had failed to keep it informed about plans to move services to Watford.

Despite close discussions between the CHC and the trusts following the decision last month, members were keen that Secretary of State Alan Milburn should be informed of what they described as a breach of protocol.

The committee's discussions, which were open to the public and took place at St Albans District Council offices, also saw the committee consider its role in the independent review announced by Under Secretary of State for Health Lord Hunt earlier this month into the move of maternity services.

CHC chairman Mary Porter led discussions, informing members that the CHC had sent a second letter to Lord Hunt welcoming the review and putting on record the areas it hoped the review would investigate.

Some of the areas covered by the letter included calls for an examination of the information upon which decisions were made, whether there were alternatives, what additional health risks would be placed on mothers by the move to Watford and whether the current crisis could have been avoided.