WOMEN in Redditch look likely to be forced to give birth in Worcester once maternity services at the Alexandra Hospital are downgraded, campaigners have warned.
Neal Stote, chairman of the Save the Alex Campaign, said he believed the pledge women would be offered a choice of consultant-led birth at Worcester or Birmingham would be broken due to capacity issues.
The Independent Clinical Review Panel ruled in January the Alex must lose its consultant-led unit (CLU) but only once capacity was available in both cities to give women choice of where to deliver.
However it has been revealed Birmingham Women’s Hospital will not have capacity to take women from Redditch and Bromsgrove for at least two years, while space can be made at the Worcestershire Royal sooner and it is feared at that point the service at the Alex will be downgraded rather than waiting for Birmingham.
Initial analysis revealed at a meeting of Worcestershire County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday (July 15) suggested Worcester would need to take 1,000 extra births, with about 500 delivering in a midwife-led unit (MLU) in Redditch and the remainder at Warwick Hospital – although commissioners later declined to clarify what scenario the figures were referring to saying they were still being ‘worked through’.
The creation of an MLU is also not guaranteed. While commissioners have pledged to consult on the issue questions remain over whether there will be enough demand from women in North Worcestershire, the cost and whether the creation of an MLU next to the consultant-led unit at the Worcestershire Royal will attract women there instead.
It is also still not certain the MLU will be based at the Alex, with the Princess of Wales site in Bromsgrove potentially an option, and Dr Carl Ellson, chief clinical officer for South Worcestershire CCG, also hinted the final decision may be influenced by a national drive to increase home births which carry the same risk as an MLU.
Mr Stote said: “With the closure of the CLU at the Alex set to be given the green light after consultation it is worrying they still don’t know where capacity will be and it looks increasingly likely it won’t be available in Birmingham at the same time as Worcester.
“It’s a double whammy as not only did we not get to see the Birmingham option our women now won’t be given a choice of where to give birth.”
Paul Sheldon, chief finance officer for Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, said: “Implications for any changes to local maternity services as part of the Future of Acute Hospital Services in Worcestershire programme are currently being worked through and will be available as part of the public consultation this Autumn.”