A BAN on Redditch patients receiving treatment at a Birmingham hospital is set to continue until there is a significant drop in demand, according to its chairman.
University Hospitals Birmingham, which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, is refusing to accept referrals from GPs outside of its own catchment area for those patients requiring general surgery, pain management, general dermatology, urology and ear, nose and throat operations.
The decision is initially set to last three months and is a result of soaring demand through A&E and for operations, particularly from outside the core Birmingham area, which has seen more than 170 extra beds opened over the last 18 months.
But in response to a letter from the leaders of Redditch, Bromsgrove and Stratford Councils appealing the decision, former Redditch MP Jacqui Smith, now chairman of UHB, indicated unless demand was reduced they would not be in a position to reverse their decision.
She added local hospitals were able to provide the services affected to their patients which would leave UHB to deal with tertiary procedures – such as complex cancer surgery or transplants – which only they were able to provide.
“Indeed, I am advised the real clinical risk relates to your tertiary patients whose operations are increasingly being cancelled and who, as a result, are waiting longer for their treatment due to lack of ward beds. These are the sickest patients with little, or no choice, over where they can be treated.”
Ms Smith also pointed to the ongoing uncertainty over the future of the Alexandra Hospital as part of the reason for the rise in the number of people from Redditch and Bromsgrove attending A&E at the QE or being referred by GPs.
Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group has appealed to Monitor, which regulates foundation trusts like UHB, and NHS England, to intervene in the dispute.
A spokesman for Monitor said they were trying to ensure the relevant parties came together to resolve the situation.
“We have been in contact with the relevant commissioners who are seeking local resolution through the contracts they hold with UHB and have written to the trust. It is the responsibility of commissioners to ensure patients are offered a choice and are aware of their right to choose where they go for treatment.”
Following a meeting with the MPs for Redditch and Bromsgrove, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said the Government was aware of the situation but would not pre-empt any decision by Monitor.
“However, I am personally keeping a close eye on developments and am committed to finding a solution, as quickly as possible, that protects patients’ legal rights to exercise choice.”