Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust broke the news last night, stating it did not have enough staff at the Alex to operate the unit safely and the situation had now become critical.
Neil Stote, chairman of the Save the Alex campaign, has branded the decision as ‘disgraceful’ and believes the closure will put women and unborn babies at risk.
He added: “Worcestershire Royal Hospital just does not have the capacity to take all of the additional births and, more importantly, the wider sub-region does not have the capacity to absorb this sudden loss – this will cause chaos.”
All births and neonatal services at the Alex will be transferred to the Worcestershire Royal from noon on Thursday (November 5). But the Trust maintains this will only be a temporary measure.
Mari Gray, interim chief nursing officer, said: “Despite all efforts we are unable to safely cover all of our neonatal rotas, especially at weekends.
“This is something we cannot ignore as our key staff delivering the care to some of our most vulnerable woman and babies have quite rightly raised concerns with me.
“From Thursday we cannot consistently cover the evening shifts with the numbers and seniority of experienced staff needed to provide the standard of care we want.
“This is a temporary change. We will only reopen the service when we are confident that we have all of the senior qualified staff in place to consistently cover all of the rotas.
“We will be looking to review this position in February next year.”
In May the trust responded to rumours the maternity services at the Alex would be gone by Christmas as ‘nonsense’.
Mr Stote added: “It is a betrayal by the trust – another lie by a failing trust.”
The health campaigner added the timing of the announcement was ‘appalling’ for which there was no excuse.
He said: “It is a clear attempt to not communicate with anybody – we really have to wonder why they did that.
“It does not make any sense as they must have known at the start of the week.
“It is disgraceful that the trust snuck this statement out at 5pm on a Friday during half term to avoid damaging headlines.
“It is another sign that this trust cares more for its reputation than the women of Redditch and Bromsgrove.”
Mr Stote also raised concerns with regards to the town’s transport links to Worcester.
He added: “This is not to mention the increased travelling times and transport issues – does
West Midlands Ambulance Service have the capacity to cope?”
The trust has said its midwives are currently in the process of contacting all of the women expecting to have their babies delivered at the Alex, to inform them and offer reassurance they will receive the highest standards of care – albeit in a different location.
Dr Carl Ellson and Simon Hairsnape, speaking on behalf of the three Worcestershire clinical commissioning groups, said: “We fully support the trust’s decision.
“Staff have worked tremendously hard over the past months to keep services available at both hospital sites and we would like to thank them for going above and beyond what would normally be expected of them.
“The current shortage of specialist staff means it would be unsafe to continue with the current arrangements.
“We are working with the trust to resolve this issue as soon as possible and in the meantime will continue to monitor the safety of those services.”