By Ian Dipple Friday 01 November 2013 Updated: 01/11 08:00
EXPERTS have been called in to review the safety of services at the Alexandra Hospital amid concerns they are becoming increasingly unsustainable.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England has been asked by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to examine the provision of out of hours and complex general surgery at the Woodrow Drive site while the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has been invited to review paediatrics and obstetric services.
Representatives from both colleges will visit the Alex in the near future and issue guidance before delivering a full report, expected to be in early January.
Concerns about the future sustainability of all three services were first raised with commissioners by hospital bosses over two years ago and led to the Joint Services Review which resulted in the recommendation to centralise maternity, children’s and A&E at the Worcestershire Royal.
But with the review still nowhere near reaching a conclusion concerns are growing within the Trust they will not be able to sustain services in their current form while they wait for a decision.
Mark Wake, the Trust’s chief medical director, said a combination of retirements, reliance on locums and illness had made it increasingly difficult to staff a 24/7 emergency surgical rota at the Alex.
In the short-term it is likely there will be no emergency surgery at the Alex at weekends, meaning anyone turning up at A&E requiring such treatment would be transferred to Worcester.
Dr Wake added paediatrics and obstetrics relied heavily on locum doctors to staff shifts properly due to recruitment problems, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to find long-term locums, particularly those at a middle grade level.
He said they were looking at ‘mitigation’ measures but it did not automatically mean it would result in the emergency closure of children’s and maternity services overnight.
“There are other things we can do. It has to be planned as far as possible with surrounding trusts and other partners.”
But Trust chairman Harry Turner warned if safety was compromised they would be prepared to pull the plug.
“We’re not going to allow a disaster, safety will trump everything.”
Neal Stote, chairman of the Save the Alex campaign, branded any such move ‘centralisation through the back door’.
“Why not let other providers help if things are as dire as they suggest.”
Members of Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group have visited the Alex to review the problem for themselves.
A CCG spokesman said: “If service sustainability is in doubt we would need to work with the Trust to agree a mitigation plan so that safe services can be assured. We really cannot pre-empt where this might take us and any direct or indirect impact on the Future of Acute Hospital Services Review.”
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