ULTRASOUND scans for cardiac patients have been stopped temporarily at Kidderminster Hospital due to unfilled staff vacancies.

Patients booked to have an echocardiogram - an ultrasound scan to look at the heart and nearby blood vessels - at Kidderminster will now have to travel to Worcester or Redditch.

Stourport resident Fred Holland, who requires regular check-ups on his heart, said he will now need to catch two buses to get to his appointment.

He told The Shuttle: "They told me I needed to go to Worcester and I rang up to complain because that's too far for me to go, but they said they haven't got enough staff to treat me at Kidderminster where I normally go.

"I've had to go to the Worcester hospital before and I had to get two buses and get the last bus back because they stop so early.

"A lot of the cardiac patients are old - they shouldn't be travelling that far.

"I just hope it really is temporary. Often these services get taken away and they never come back."

Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust, which runs all three hospitals, says it has had to concentrate the service to ensure safe, quality care to cardiac patients across the county, and assured the move is only temporary.

Dr Jasper Trevelyan, consultant cardiologist and divisional medical director for specialist medicine, said: “A longstanding national shortage of specialised cardiac physiologists, who diagnose and help to treat patients with heart disease and are vital to the running of cardiology services, has impacted on our ability to recruit to this specialist role.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

"We currently have eight vacancies across our hospitals, representing 40 per cent of the total number of qualified echocardiographers, which remain unfilled, despite ongoing and numerous attempts to recruit.

“To ensure we can continue to provide safe, quality care to all cardiac patients across the county, we have recently taken the decision to temporarily concentrate our echocardiogram service on our two inpatient hospital sites at Worcester and Redditch to enable our specialist staff to work as efficiently as possible – treating both our emergency patients and outpatients.

"All patients who were booked to have an echocardiogram at the Kidderminster Hospital and Treatment Centre have been contacted and made aware of the new arrangements.

"Their follow-up appointments will remain in Kidderminster, and all other cardiology outpatient clinics and electrocardiogram (ECG) services at Kidderminster remain unaffected.”

But former Wyre Forest MP, Dr Richard Taylor, thinks hospital staff should be distributed to make it easier for patients, rather than for the staff themselves.

He said: "I think it's absolutely disgusting that services are being moved from an underused department at Kidderminster to an overused department at Worcester.

"Then there's the difficulties in travelling so far. Anyone who has tried to get a bus from Kidderminster to Worcestershire Royal will know how difficult it is.

"If you haven't got a car, it's incredibly hard to do. And a taxi will cost you around £50.

"It's ridiculous to be taking services away from Kidderminster when we should be using Kidderminster more to relieve stress elsewhere.

"We've got to distribute staff so it's fair for the patients, rather than the staff. I agree staff shouldn't have to travel between a vast number of hospitals but this will cause immense difficulties for these patients."