By Harriet Ernstsons Friday 28 September 2012 Updated: 28/09 09:51
THE FUTURE of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is in doubt if the timetable to implement changes to hospital services slips.
Formal consultation on the Joint Services Review is expected to take place from November to February but the process has already been delayed for four weeks after clinicians failed to agree a shortlist of detailed options to put to the public earlier this month.
And project director Chris Fearns warned any further delays could affect the Trust's application to become a Foundation Trust by the Government's set time limit of 2014 and avoid it being broken up.
Mrs Fearns said she had to start writing the application early next year which would not be possible if there was not 'a clear way forward'.
"For us as a Trust the biggest single challenge we will face is in February. We will be expected to set out a five year clinical strategy for services as part of the requirement to be a Foundation Trust," she told a meeting of the JSR stakeholders reference board, set-up to oversee the project which aims to plug a £50million funding gap.
"There is absolutely no flexibility with Foundation Trust applications. South West London was put in to administration and then put out to franchise, that isn't something we want to focus too much on but we have to be realistic about the fact there is that threat.
"We must aim to try to progress this and try and maintain a viable Trust for the county going forward."
Clinicians are expected to meet again on October 10 but there is no guarantee a decision will be reached.
"Until we get there, the process isn't going to make the progress it needs to," she added.
"It's about going to the public with a shortlist, going out with real information, statistics, services, issues, pros and cons in a much richer way than we were able to earlier. Nobody could make any sense of that because there was nothing there to make sense of."
A spokesman for the JSR said: "Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, the Strategic Health Authority and the Department of Health signed an agreement committing to a timetable that would see WAHT put in its submission for Foundation Trust status in July 2013.
"At the moment we are aiming to deliver both projects on time while keeping both schedules under review."
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