By Ian Dipple 17/08 Updated: 17/08 17:47
HEALTH bosses have been accused of u-turning over plans to hold further talks with the public before formal consultation begins on changes to hospital services.
The Standard reported on Friday how Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust had dropped plans for a second listening exercise after detailed options are released next month (September) which could see A&E and maternity services at the Alex centralised into Worcester.
A Trust spokesman said the timetable had slipped because they wanted to fully consider all the responses from the public during the first round of public meetings and ensure they had the level of detail people were demanding about how services would look, capacity issues, travel times and other factors, before formal consultation started in November.
It prompted a fierce backlash from politicians in Redditch, Bromsgrove and Stratford, who called on the Trust to explain themselves.
But Eamonn Kelly, chief executive of NHS Worcestershire, denied they had ever planned to go into consultation without talking to the public first.
"Our commitment to a second round of engagement before consultation has not changed. One of the requirements of this process is to be able to respond to what the public is telling us. Rather than sticking to a rigid plan we should be flexible enough to make adjustments to our timetable based on what people are saying," he said.
"We will hold more public events both before and during consultation, the issue is about getting the timing right. When we looked at the feedback from the seven meetings we held in June and July it was clear people want more detailed information about the future options.
"Our stakeholder reference board echoed the call for more detailed information. We are happy to do this and are preparing this material.
"We also acknowledged August was not a good time to hold more events. We are now looking at when best to run further public events.
"Everyone in the county will have the opportunity to comment on our short-listed options which we will release in September."
He added no decisions had been made and all views expressed so far, including those of campaigners, would be taken into account before any final decision was made.
But Neal Stote, head of the Save the Alex campaign, said: "I class this as a u-turn because of the fierce backlash from the public, the media and the politicians. The Trust has to be open and honest about what their timetable is and keep the public and the campaign informed about developments with the JSR."
Redditch MP Karen Lumley attacked the statement as 'woolly and lacking in detail'.
"It contains no dates as to when the second round of meetings will take place and so we are still left hanging on a cliff edge, wondering what will happen next," she said.
"I now call on the Trust to provide the dates as to when the second round of public meetings will be. My constituents have the right to have these meetings with the Trust and to know, the times, dates and locations well in advance.
" I sincerely hope what happened today (Friday) is not indicative of how the rest of the process will be handled and I urge the Trust to communicate with local residents more clearly and more regularly."
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