REDDITCH residents could face longer waits in Accident & Emergency following a decision to take patients from the DY10 and DY11 postcodes in Kidderminster to the Alexandra Hospital instead of Worcestershire Royal.
The move has caused outrage in Kidderminster, where the local hospital was downgraded several years ago, and could have a knock on effect for patients in Redditch.
The experiment, which started on Monday, June 18, is scheduled to last a week before being assessed for its impact.
The decision was made jointly by West Midlands Ambulance Service and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust with the agreement of family doctors in the county’s clinical commissioning groups in a bid to cut delays in the Emergency Department at the Royal.
The Trust has been slammed in the past by the ambulance service for delaying the handover of patients from paramedics because of the lack of room in A&E and the lack of available beds in the hospital itself.
The Accident & Emergency department at the Alex is recognised as being less busy since major emergency cases, severe paediatric cases and maternity were transferred to Worcester.
However questions are now being asked how the hospital, with reduced expertise at its disposal, will be expected to cope with an increase in cases.
“It is absolutely ridiculous,” said Redditch health campaigner Ian Johnson.
“There’s a dual carriageway from Kidderminster to Worcester, while between Kidderminster and Bromsgrove there’s a poxy little road before you get to the dual carriageway to the Alex.
“I’ve just checked on Google Maps and it says it can take 57 minutes to do the journey.”
Kidderminster Councillor Fran Oborski (Lib Dem, St Chads) said: “This is not an anti-Alex thing and we know there are problems at the Trust but I really do not think that diverting the ambulances from Kidderminster to Redditch is very good at all.
“Apart from the knock on effect on Redditch patients, what if the patient, having arrived in Redditch then has to be sent to Worcester? That is more delay for them and total confusion for the patient’s relatives trying to track them down.
“This decision is not a win-win situation but a lose-lose one.”
A spokesperson for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We welcome this pilot because we believe it will help us treat patients in need of urgent care more quickly, reduce waiting times and balance demand across our two Emergency Departments more effectively.
“We have been closely involved in discussions around the border change and we think it will benefit patients from across Worcestershire.
“It will also help our Ambulance colleagues and other health partners because it should reduce our need to use short notice deflects from one site to another.
“This is part of our ongoing efforts to reduce waiting times, manage patient flow more effectively and change the way we work to deal with continuing high levels of demand of our urgent care services.”
Mari Gay, Chief Operating Officer of the three Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) added: “It is quite common place already that the ambulance service and the Trust work to vary demand between the two hospital sites, the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Worcester and the Alexander Hospital, Redditch when under pressure. This is often done in an unplanned and reactive way.
“We have been asked by NHS Improvement, the Ambulance Trust and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust to support them testing out whether this boundary change will make a difference to the quality of care for patients and have been reassured that additional resources will be available at the Alexandra Hospital.
“It has been agreed that this planned change will run as a pilot for a week starting from Monday, June 18 to determine how effective it is and it will be reviewed throughout the week to assess the impact.”