U-turn caused by fear patients would seek treatment elsewhere

By Ian Dipple Thursday 08 November 2012 Updated: 10/11 13:45

FEARS patients would turn their back on Worcestershire's hospitals to seek treatment outside of the county were partly behind the reason for a u-turn on plans to close the Alexandra Hospital.

The more extreme options proposed as part of the Joint Services Review were dropped last month (October) when it was revealed health bosses were now looking to provide as many services as possible at all three of the county's hospitals.

They could have seen the Alex reduced to just a minor injuries unit (MIU) and planned surgery or it could have closed completely with just one main hospital in Worcester and an MIU provided in Redditch, but not necessarily at the Alex site.

Both politicians and the Save the Alex campaign warned in those scenarios people in Redditch and Bromsgrove would travel to Birmingham for urgent care, because of poor transport links to Worcester.

During a question and answer session with councillors, health bosses revealed it was a key factor in why they had ditched their original proposals, while others would have cost too much or were unsafe.

Concerns were also raised by other Trusts, which said they would not have the capacity to cope if patients left the county.

But Simon Hairsnape, chief officer for NHS Worcestershire, all but confirmed to the county council's Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, A&E and maternity services at the Alex would not remain in their current form. He said the reasons for the review in Worcestershire remained valid, and although talks were taking place with other providers outside the county, they faced the same problems.

"The case for change stands because the issues WAHT is grappling with, apply to any organisation we may or may not be talking to as they are national issues. As commissioners we can't buy services an organisation is not willing to provide if it's not safe to provide them,” he said.

“The radical options took out most of the services on the Alex site. What we are playing out with WAHT and other providers is, what is the fullest range of services we are able to provide.

“What I'm not going to say is we are going to provide 70, 80 or 90 per cent of services currently at the Alex, but we are talking about the vast majority of services being retained in Worcestershire on that site.

"Out intention is to keep services inside the county and if some of the more optimistic conversations come to fruition it will be a greater range of services within the county, not less."

He added Bromsgrove and Redditch residents were clear on what local services they wanted and it was about finding a balance between what could be sustainably provided locally and centrally.

Penny Venables, chief executive of WAHT, added there were different ways of providing emergency and urgent care other than the traditional A&E model.

"In other areas of Europe, there's no such thing as an A&E department, but they still have outstanding outcomes of care."

She added there were options and models that needed examining over the next few weeks to see how the best provision could be achieved across all three sites.

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