Minister calls for quick solution over Alex future

By Ian Dipple Friday 15 February 2013 Updated: 15/02 16:54

THE HEALTH minister has called for an end to the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Alexandra Hospital saying it had gone on for ‘far too long’.

Dr Dan Poulter acknowledged the impact the ongoing Joint Services Review and the repeated attempts to downgrade A&E at the Alex over the last 15 years would have on patients and staff and urged commissioners to move forward with a solution as quickly as possible.

“I hope over the next few months we can come to a conclusion that will be of benefit to local patients that will also bring higher quality care to people - not only in Redditch but the whole of Worcestershire,” he said during a Westminster Hall debate called by Redditch MP Karen Lumley to discuss the future of the Alex.

“I urge local clinicians when they bring forward their future proposals, which is likely to be two options, we move forward as expediently and as quickly as possible and bring certainty to this.”

Although he would not be drawn on whether or not he would allow the transfer of the hospital should it be decided to bring in Trusts from Birmingham to run services, he indicated the area’s natural links with the second city could not be ignored.

“Any decision about the Alex’s future needs to take into account the broader implications that has, but to the same extent it was made very clear to me if you look at that wider health economy there are natural links with Birmingham that’s something that must be taken into account when services are redesigned for the benefit of patients.”

He also stressed while the clinical evidence was ‘stacking up’ that certain specialist surgical procedures should be carried out at centres of excellence ‘for day to day bread and butter services these are best provided locally’.

Dr Poulter also praised the efforts of the Save the Alex Campaign, The Standard and politicians for ensuring residents’ feelings about the review were heard.

“It is important for us as a Government, but also for any local healthcare providers and the board of the Trust to listen to what what local people are saying,” he said.

“I will continue to keep a keen interest and continue to do all I can to support the right result for local patients.”

Earlier in the debate Mrs Lumley had highlighted Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Trust’s historic debt problems which led it to it taking out a £12million loan from the Government to improve its liquidity problem, the PFI deal which had built the Worcestershire Royal in the wrong place and its ongoing attempts to plug a £1.9million deficit by the end of this financial year.

She said they could no longer continue to ‘kick the can along the road’ and a long-term sustainable solution was needed for the Alex.

“We are being realistic about what has to happen but I want to be clear there are two options on the table and both must be looked at in a fair and open way,” she said.

The JSR meets at the end of February and is expected to unveil two options, one which will see WAHT continue to run services at the Alex and a plan to look in more detail at a Birmingham option.

Full detail will not be available until the summer. It is hoped a final decision will be made by November, following three months of formal consultation.

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