WINCHESTER'S maternity unit could be downsized as part of plans for a new emergency hospital north of the city, it has emerged.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT), which now runs the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, pictured, is considering moving consultant-led maternity care for women with high-risk pregnancies to the planned new £70m centre.

Other proposals include transferring care of critically-ill children there, including neonatal or the special care baby unit.

This could lead to maternity services at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital and Basingstoke hospital becoming midwife-led.

Trust chiefs have refused to confirm this, saying they are still “working out the detail.”

Health chiefs say changes are needed to ensure choice for pregnant women, while keeping services safe, financially viable and meeting national standards.

However Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine has called to keep a full range of maternity services, including consultant-led care to perform procedures such as Caesareans or forceps deliveries.

Other proposals include moving pathology services, such as blood and tissue testing, to a central warehouse with smaller “hot hubs” for urgent tests.

Dr Andrew Bishop, chief medical officer at HHFT, revealed the proposed shake-up of maternity services during a presentation on the new emergency hospital to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

As previously reported, the new critical treatment hospital would treat patients suffering from major trauma, heart attacks, strokes and other emergencies.

A £13m planned cancer centre will operate from the site, providing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

A&E departments at Basingstoke and Winchester will treat less serious emergencies.

Dr Bishop said 10 per cent of women wanted to give birth at home, 50 per cent without doctors, while 40 per cent needed or opted to have “lots of machines and medical care.”

He admitted there was “some fudge” in his answer but he didn’t want maternity services to become a “war zone.”

Commenting on the proposals, Tory MP Steve Brine said he and his wife, Susie, knew from personal experience the importance of obstetric-led services.

The father-of-two said: “I never miss an opportunity to support improved health outcomes in the area, but the trust are acutely aware, that for me, it goes hand in hand with high quality outpatient services, emergency care and the full range of maternity provision at the RHCH.”

Trust chiefs still have to secure a site for the new hospital, but are looking in an area of land encircled by the M3, A34 and A303.