By Ian Dipple Wednesday 05 September 2012 Updated: 10/09 10:29
CAMPAIGNERS have raised concerns plans to create a new unit to support the A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital could be used as a 'trial run' to closing services at the Alex.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is set to submit a planning application to create a Surgical Clinical Decision Unit within the grounds of the hospital to help ease pressure on A&E during the winter months when demand is usually higher.
The unit means patients needing emergency surgery will not have to be admitted to a trolley in A&E to await assessment and allows patients requiring surgery to be looked after in a dedicated unit. The Trust says it will increase bed space and free up emergency staff to deal with non-surgical related emergencies as well as improve treatment for patients needing surgery.
But Rebecca Blake, Labour Parliamentary spokesman for Redditch, questioned the move in light of the Joint Services Review which could see A&E and maternity services at the Alex centralised into Worcester in a bid to save £50million by 2015.
"This is either a clear acknowledgement there is not enough capacity in the system to adequately care for the number of people who need A&E in Worcestershire or despite having reassured people no decision has been made, is Worcestershire Royal preparing to take on more patients once the Alex A&E is closed?"
"I am stunned plans to effectively extend A&E in Worcester are underway, given the Trust are yet to fully consult with local people. The Trust must come clean about their intentions."
Neal Stote, head of the Save the Alex campaign, added: "It would seem to reflect a capacity issue within the system and there's no doubt in our mind closing A&E at the Alex would add further pressure and this is more evidence Worcester A&E would not cope."
But a spokeswoman for the Trust said the move, approved by NHS Worcestershire earlier this year, had nothing to do with the JSR but was part of nationally recognised good practice and reflected a model recently introduced at the Alex and was standard across acute hospitals in the West Midlands.
"This development will allow us to transfer some of our existing surgical beds to medical beds where we are seeing the higher demand. It will also allow the ring-fencing of surgical beds to reduce cancelled operations," he said.
"In short, this temporary development will allow the hospital to ensure urgent surgical and urgent non-surgical care is delivered safely and efficiently whilst ensuring patients get the appropriate level of care. The temporary development allows for reconfiguration of bed space within existing hospital buildings in the long term and supports patient care over the critical winter period when we can expect urgent admissions to increase."
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