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Health strategy sparks dispute
AN NHS chief says he is confident an agreement will be reached on the future of Worcestershire’s acute hospitals.
But concerned councillors say they cannot see that happening because of differing priorities for doctors in the north and south of the county.
Almost 18 months into a much-delayed process, health bosses have still not agreed how the county’s hospitals will be reconfigured to save about £50 million. And, as we reported, GPs in south Worcestershire favour centralising acute services at Worcester whereas their counterparts in Redditch and Bromsgrove believe it is important to retain the likes of maternity and full A&E services in the north of the county.
A 12-week review process aiming to agree a way forward for county hospitals is now underway. An independent clinical review panel is being assembled which, along with several sub-committees representing groups including patients and local medics, will consider the viability of the two options that remain on the table.
These are for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to continue running Worcestershire Royal, Kidderminster and Redditch Alexandra hospitals, or for another – likely to be Birmingham-based – trust to take over in Redditch.
By the end of the 12-week process, on December 18, the independent panel and sub-committees will report to a newly-formed programme board, which will need to make a recommendation on how to proceed. A decision on whether to accept the recommendation will then fall on Worcestershire’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and the acute trust.
David Williams, direction of operations and delivery at NHS England Midlands and East, told members of Worcestershire’s health overview and scrutiny committee he is confident all parties will agree a recommendation. But he admitted there is no guarantee.
“There is potential for CCGs or the acute trust to disagree on any final decision,” he said. “But we would expect that if we reach agreement in the programme board then those decisions would be ratified.”
He said in the “rare occurrence” of the parties not agreeing, NHS England and the NHS Trust Development Authority (NTDA) would step in.
But councillors said they were sceptical an agreement will be reached. Referring to Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG’s recently-published draft prospectus for 2014/15 – outlining its desire to commission full A&E and maternity services at the Alexandra – Coun Philip Gretton said he felt there was very little chance of agreement being reached.