AN NHS trust has confirmed some outpatient services are being transferred from community hospitals to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust says the move is being made as consultants' and doctors’ time was being spread too thinly across lots of sites, and has stressed that the future of the community hospitals is safe.

The trust issued the statement after a source revealed that a number of outpatient clinics at the county's community hospitals were being axed.

Among the community hospitals in Worcestershire are the Princess of Wales in Bromsgrove, Malvern Community Hospital and Evesham Community Hospital.

But a trust spokesman has clarified it is looking at “repatriating” some services back into the acute hospitals.

The speculation gathered momentum after Worcestershire Health and Care Trust began advertising a Help Develop Your Local Community Hospital event, with the first being held St Peter’s Baptist Church in Worcester.

The source said: “Consultants have been given notice [of the plans]. Staff are unsettled, people are worried about their jobs.

"The trust are saying they are doing a consultation, they are transparent about everything, but it is being done in secret.

“If they close the outpatient clinics, how is that putting patients first?”

In a statement from the trust, a spokesman said: “The organisation of outpatient clinics is complicated as some are run by Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust who in effect rent the space from us within the hospitals.

"While there is a system-wide strategy to provide as much care as we can in local areas this has to be balanced with staffing challenges.

“Some outpatient services have stopped from the community hospitals and repatriated back within the main acute sites to avoid having their consultants’ and doctors’ time spread too thinly running services across lots of sites.

“We are starting a programme of work to maximise the use of our community hospitals and while we can’t rule out changes to some outpatient clinic arrangements we do anticipate each of the sites doing many of the same things they do now, and where things have to stop we will work with partners across health and care to replace them with other well-utilised services wherever possible.

“Part of this project is also looking more generally at outpatient services which still operate on a fairly traditional model.

"We want to make regular check-ups or outpatient appointments more effective which could include better use of technology - reserving face-to-face appointments to times when they are most necessary.”

Peter Pinfield, the chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire, the group which represent Worcestershire patients, said: “We would not stand by and see a reduction in the service at community hospitals for the people of Worcestershire.

“If you are going to close clinics, there has to be alternatives. The services like the outpatient clinics are essential.

“If they are looking to make a change, they have to hold a consultation by law.”

The trust's advertising for their events reads: “We are looking at how we can improve and modernise outpatient clinics, so appointments are more effective for patients.

“This could change the way community hospitals have traditionally been used and while they will continue to do the majority of the things they currently provide, we want to work with local people to look at new or different opportunities for them to play an even bigger role in their local area.”

Another trust event is being held at Simply Limitless, in Kidderminster, on January 31, between 10am and noon.