By Ian Dipple Thursday 29 August 2013 Updated: 29/08 14:03
THE NUMBER of midwives could be cut across the county's hospitals because of a falling birth rate.
Bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust are carrying out a review of maternity 'capacity' at the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals.
They had been preparing a business case to add to the Trust's existing 290 midwives after a shock rise in births last year with almost 169 more born in 2012/13 than the 6,228 in 2011/12 which left their midwife to birth ratio below the expected standards.
But since then the number of births has dropped and forecasts for the rest of the year are also down. There were 476 deliveries during June, compared to 555 in the same month last year.
The review is expected to see a reduction in the number of midwives employed by the Trust but chief executive Penny Venables said it would be bank and agency staff that would be affected and it was unlikely there would be the need for any redundancies.
Chief operating officer Stewart Messer told a board meeting last week they would be monitoring the situation over the next three months to ensure the dip was not temporary.
"The review is ongoing but we don't want to be in the position where we decrease the workforce but then actually the birth rate starts going up and we fail the national standards," he said.
As part of the countywide review of hospital services maternity and paediatrics at the Alex are set to be centralised into Worcester. Although the review is still ongoing and no decision has been made, as the Standard revealed in May, because of a funding dispute with commissioners both services may be withdrawn earlier than planned.
A panel of senior NHS officials ruled commissioners no longer had to pay a £2.6million premium to maintain both services across two sites and is one of the main reasons the Trust is currently forecasting a £5million deficit.
Although discussions are ongoing about some temporary transitional funding, Trust bosses have warned if none is forthcoming they will have to accelerate their plans for centralisation.
Mrs Venables said: "Funding is really difficult at the Alex because we had the £2.6million taken away and that was supporting the increased cost of locum doctors, so we're bearing the brunt of that in terms of our deficit at the moment."
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