By Ian Dipple 03/08 Updated: 03/08 10:09
PATIENTS are being regularly sent from Worcester to Redditch because the county's main hospital is unable to cope with demand.
Figures obtained by the Standard show in the last 12 months the Worcestershire Royal Hospital was forced to divert ambulances to the Alexandra Hospital 14 times. In the same period the Alexandra Hospital was forced to go on divert to Worcester six times.
Diverts are used to provide temporary respite to hospitals experiencing a surge in emergency admissions and there are not enough staff or beds to provide adequate care.
Although the situation in Worcestershire is not unusual, campaigners against proposals which could see A&E and maternity services at the Alex close as part of the Joint Services Review, say it casts fresh doubt on the ability of the system to cope if the changes go-ahead.
In response to a Freedom of Information request a spokeswoman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: "The Trust, in line with all other Trusts, experiences normal variations in emergency demand, with occasional peaks above the normal expected variation.
"There were 14 occasions in the last 12 months, where there were peaks in demand at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Ambulances therefore took patients on the borders of the catchment area between the two hospitals to the Alexandra Hospital to make the best use of capacity across both sites."
But Neal Stote, the man leading the Save the Alex campaign, said: "Yes it is normal for hospitals to divert to other hospitals but if cuts happen at one hospital that's one less hospital to divert to. So where is Worcestershire Royal, when it's busy, diverting its patients to in the future?
"There's only so many departments you can cut before you will be diverted to the divert to the divert and end up with ridiculous travel times ambulance services just won't be able to cope with."
But a spokesman for the Joint Services Review said they would not put in place any changes without ensuring the system had the capacity to cope.
"The challenge for the review of Worcestershire’s health services is to deliver better care to more people with less resource. The work we are doing assumes we will have the appropriate level of capacity to meet the needs of the population.
"Therefore capacity will be anticipated and built in to any A&E proposals we take forward."
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