By Ian Dipple Thursday 11 October 2012 Updated: 12/10 10:55
HEALTH chiefs appear to have u-turned on plans to reconfigure the county's hospitals after revealing they are now looking to keep as many services as possible on all three sites.
It raises real hope of keeping A&E and maternity services at the Alexandra Hospital, although campaigners have given the news a cautious welcome.
A spokesman for the Joint Services Review said they could not make any guarantees and any changes would still have to be clinically safe and affordable.
Eamonn Kelly, chief executive of NHS Worcestershire which is leading the review, also confirmed they were talking to other healthcare providers about a possible solution - believed to be a reference to behind the scenes talks being held with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust which runs the QE in the second city.
As a result of the decision detailed options will not be released now until after Christmas - and not in November as originally planned - when a second round of engagement will be held ahead of the start of any formal consultation.
Mr Kelly said the decision proved they were listening to the concerns of both the public and clinicians - including over 54,000 people who signed the Save the Alex petition.
"We have listened to what local people and interest groups have been saying and taken advice from our senior clinicians," he said.
"Previously, the JSR has looked at six models which included a significant reduction of services or closure on one or more sites.
"Although no final short-list has been drawn up we are now focusing our work on delivering services at all three hospitals. This means drawing up site specific service plans which will be further tested on clinical and financial grounds.
"The Alexandra Hospital is the site most likely to be affected. We will now review and refine the clinical and financial detail of the models that look to maximise the number of services that can be provided in Redditch.
"This work includes talking with the wider NHS to see if there are opportunities for joint working if this ensures the sustainability of safe, high quality services for local people. We have a duty to produce plans that are both deliverable and safe.
"There are no guarantees that this will be the final outcome but we are committed to making sure we have explored every opportunity to provide the fullest range of services possible across the three sites.
"This means we will now aim to start consultation, after a second phase of public engagement in the New Year."
Neal Stote, head of the Save the Alex campaign, welcomed the announcement but said the campaign would continue.
"This just shows how unprepared they were in the first place. They should never have put out these plans if they were so unworkable they are now having to retract them for further work, taking us into the new year and probably costing more money."
Redditch MP Karen Lumley added: "I'm pleased the Trust have listened to the people and it shows what can happen when residents join together. I'm delighted this is a cross-party campaign and we should all applaud Neal Stote and the Redditch Standard for their hard work and this successful start to the campaign.
"Obviously we still need to be clear about what this means for the Alex and that the residents of Redditch want to see all services remain."
Rebecca Blake, Labour Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, echoed concerns Redditch was still likely to be the most most affected.
"However, public pressure has clearly played a vital role in getting the Trust to work harder for local people. I know people will not stop campaigning for the Alex as long as services are at threat.
"Since June, Save the Alex and over 54,000 others have demonstrated Redditch needs its hospital, A&E and maternity department and clearly we will now continue that fight into the new year."
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