By Ian Dipple Friday 01 March 2013 Updated: 01/03 15:21
REORGANISING the county’s health services will save lives not put them at risk, according to one of the doctors who will help decide the future of the Alexandra Hospital.
Dr Jonathan Wells, chair and clinical lead of Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, said while he understood it would be difficult for people to accept the loss of a full A&E, overnight and inpatient children’s services and a full consultant led maternity unit, the majority of care for most people would still be provided at the Alex.
He said they had to accept the recommendation of Worcestershire Clinical Senate that Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust should centralise those services into Worcester due to difficulties including a shortage of junior doctors, lack of consultants in certain specialities, an ageing population and the need to plug a £50million funding gap by 2015.
But speaking to the Standard he said people should not confuse the financial difficulties with the ‘good clinical reasons’ behind the changes.
“We now have too many small units across the country and the recommendations coming in across the land, driven by these clinical reasons, is it is better to centralise care and have fewer more specialised units where you have a higher number of doctors and specialists, so when you are ill you can go to the specialist centre and be seen by the right doctor at the right time,” he said.
“For strokes, heart attacks and serious medical conditions your chances of survival are significantly greater if you are seen in a specialist hospital, in this case either Worcester or Birmingham.
“For all other conditions the usual patient flows will happen, so if your GP sees you and decides you need to be admitted they will decide where to admit you and for the vast majority of medical care - for example frail, elderly people who become unwell with chest infections or kidney infections - they will still be seen at the Alexandra Hospital.
“What we are doing is redesigning urgent and emergency care so patients are seen in the right place and the right time and that’s actually going to save lives.”
Dr Wells said he understood concerns about people with emergency conditions having to travel to either Birmingham or Worcester but said there was no evidence from elsewhere in the country people who lived half an hour from a specialist hospital were more at risk of dying en route than those who lived closer. He added there would still be safety nets in place.
“There will still be doctors at the Alex able to perform resuscitation and stabilisation of patients and ambulance crews will be available to immediately transfer those very small number of patients.”
Dr Wells added they welcomed Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust’s commitment to provide as many services as they could at the Alex but they still wanted to continue talking to other providers to see what they could offer.
But he confirmed those talks would not save services in their current format.
“We wanted to find out whether it would be possible to replicate the existing services that Worcestershire Acute operate at the Alex and it became clear that wasn’t going to be possible for all the reasons in the clinical case for change, which don’t only apply to Worcestershire Acute but also to other providers,” he said.
“What did become clear was these alternative providers would also be able to provide a wide range of service at the Alex and there might be some significant advantages for our patients, so we had that inserted into the JSR process and we are very committed to making sure option two is fully worked up.
“Last summer clinicians looking at the case for change came up with 13 models and there were some in there that completely downgraded the Alex which would have left the Alex with a minor injuries unit, some outpatients and no inpatient care at all.
“As a CCG we were and remain absolutely committed the Alexandra remains a thriving local hospital providing a wide range of services.
“Work done by the Save the Alex campaign was really important in getting that message across and as a result models D, E and F came off the table, so we’re in a much better place now.”
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