A FORMER Wyre Forest doctor says plans which could see Worcestershire community hospital beds closed could have a knockon effect at Kidderminster Hospital and other already- strained acute hospitals.

Bosses at Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust announced they would have to find savings of about £8 million per year over the next five years to slash £40 million off the budget.

Board members said the trust was looking to support more people in their own homes, as well as provide services which are less bed-based.

Reports suggest, however, about 10 per cent of the county’s 200 beds at community hospitals – used by GPs for patients not thought to needs services at acute hospitals — could be closed.

Trust bosses said discussions around bed numbers were “ongoing” and “no decisions” had yet been made.

There is currently no suggestion Kidderminster Hospital and its GP beds will be closed as they are run by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. That trust, however, is also looking to cut a similar proportion of its budget in a separate review.

Dr Richard Taylor, co-leader of National Health Action and former Wyre Forest MP, said the community hospitals cuts could impact on services elsewhere.

“This will be very unpopular with local people,” he said.

“Community hospitals are regarded as a quick, easy way to discharge from the acute sector. They have step-down beds so it has a spin-off effect on acute hospitals, GPs and patients.”

Trust chief executive Sarah Dugan said: “Although there is a financial challenge, the motivation is really about finding new and innovative ways of caring and treating people in or as close to home as possible.

“This is what people tell us they want. Whether they are a young person with a mental illness or are elderly, the overwhelming feedback is people want to avoid going to hospital unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“The services we already provide have been deemed high quality and safe by a number of external assessments and inspections but we think the proposals outlined will further improve outcomes and experiences for people who use our services.”

Worcestershire’s community hospitals are based in Evesham, Malvern, Pershore, Tenbury and Bromsgrove (Princess of Wales).