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Delays to centralisation will cause Worcestershire services to suffer, says specialist
IGNORING calls for hospital centralisation will cause vital services to collapse and create an ‘un-met need’ for life-saving treatments in Worcestershire, a top specialist has warned.
After a report from NHS national medical director supported the centralisation of services in a network of super A&Es, Worcestershire Acute Trust’s lead cancer clinician Adel Makar said those opposing the case for change in the county are risking disastrous consequences.
Downgrading A&E, children’s and women’s services at Redditch’s Alexandra in favour of more centralisation at Worcester is being considered in a much-delayed review of acute hospital services.
Mr Makar believes this has to happen as the alternative – another, likely Birmingham-based trust taking over at the Alexandra – would lead to the “collapse” of vital services such as urology, haematology and specialised cancer services as there would no longer be the patients to justify them.
“If the review ends up with us losing the population of Redditch and Bromsgrove from our patch then almost all of these will collapse because there are national stipulations that we need a certain population size to have a viable service and keep that expertise,” he said.
“If we lose services locally, even if there are pathways to get the services elsewhere, there will be huge un-met need in the county.
“If we lose all these services that would be nothing short of disastrous to the population of Worcestershire, wherever they live.”
He said further developments like a state-of-the-art £22.5 million radiotherapy unit under construction at Worcestershire Royal will not be possible if the trust is pulled apart.
“That is a blueprint for what we can achieve but only if we stick together and work together,” he said.
South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which decides how NHS budgets should be spent to meet the needs of residents, are backing the case for centralisation at Worcester.
But their counterparts in Redditch and Bromsgrove are backing services being retained at the Alexandra.
And now a joint council report submitted to Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG has warned that cutting services there would “hit the vulnerable hardest and create an area of health deprivation”.
Councillors Bill Hartnett, Roger Hollingworth and Chris Saint, leaders of Redditch borough, Bromsgrove district and Stratford district councils respectively say removing services would impact people’s health and weaken communities and the economy.
“With a clear link between physical and mental health problems and deprivation, the removal of key health services from the Alexandra Hospital to an inaccessible central base would put some of our most vulnerable residents at risk,” said Coun Hartnett.
They also say that if services are removed from the Alexandra, poor transport links to Worcester mean residents will head to Birmingham instead.
“While any removal of services at the Alexandra Hospital will impact on our residents, if there has to be change then the simple fact is this area enjoys good bus, road and rail links to Birmingham, whereas Worcester is inaccessible for many and that situation is getting worse as county council cuts bite,” said Coun Hollingworth.
The hospital review is still ongoing and no recommendations will be made until at least the new year.
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