By Gary Smee 14/06 Updated: 21/06 12:55
A RADICAL overhaul of healthcare in Worcestershire will lead to the county losing one of its accident and emergency departments and could see other services being severely downgraded.
Health chiefs say they are facing a £50million shortfall in the next few years caused by government cutbacks and an ageing population and are carrying out an in-depth look at how hospital care could be delivered from 2015.
This week, as part of the Joint Services Review, they unveiled six different models looking at how services could be provided in the future but two of them, which would see a full A&E department stay at both Worcestershire Royal and The Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, were thought to be unworkable because of the growing strain on finances.
At this stage there are no specific details about which sites services would be located on in each of the four workable scenarios but potentially in three of them the A&E service, maternity, women's and children's services would be centralised into either Worcestershire Royal or The Alex.
In the other case one hospital would close altogether with just a minor injuries unit and outpatients provided.
Evesham and Pershore Community Hospitals could also play a big part with the four models outlining a need for more people to be treated closer to home.
Health chiefs say without change there was a real risk services would deteriorate as in future they would not be able to recruit enough specialist staff to meet clinical guidelines or be able to afford new treatments and drugs.
Doing nothing has been ruled out as recruiting enough consultants to meet new guidelines would require another £3.5million to be spent, which is unaffordable when Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust - which runs Worcestershire Royal - is facing such a huge shortfall.
The models have been drawn up by clinicians with the help of outside experts who since the review was first announced in January have been meeting to thrash out different ways elderly care, planned care, emergency care and women's and children's services could be run in future to deliver better standards patient care but in a way which is affordable.
A series of public events are now being held, including one at County Hall next month, so residents can comment on the principles behind the plan. Feedback will then be used to work up detailed options which will go out to public consultation in September for a final decision in December. The planned changes would be introduced by 2015.
Penny Venables, chief executive of WAHT, said they were trying to be open and transparent with the public about the discussions which had taken place so far but insisted they were still in the early stages of the process and no decisions had been made.
"These are the models they are not options, they are models of acute hospital care we could be talking about in Leeds, London or Worcestershire," she said.
"This is about engagement to try and explain to the public why we are doing it. At this stage there’s a lot more detailed work we need to do before we start being specific about what the implications are. We need to look at the financial cost but we haven't done that work or level of detail yet."
Chris Fearns, JSR project director, added: "When we get into the financial modelling what people imagine the results will be, it could be very different.
"There’s no blueprint behind closed doors. We haven’t come down on any specifics, it is absolutely as transparent as we can make it."
The public meeting takes place on Saturday, July 7, between 10am and 2pm. Visit www.worcestershirehealth.nhs.uk/joint-services-review to find out more about the changes.
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