A REVIEW of the current reconfiguration of hospital services in Worcestershire will be ordered if Labour wins the next General Election.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham revealed to the Standard on a visit to Redditch last Thursday (May 1) to launch Labour’s local election campaign, if elected in 2015 he would want a wider strategic review of the changes before he signed them off.
After meeting with concerned parents and members of the Save the Alex Campaign, Mr Burnham said he felt the review was being conducted on too narrow a basis, ignoring issues including the impact on services in neighbouring Birmingham, and travelling times. He also said there was no clarity on where the 2,100 babies delivered at the Alexandra Hospital would be born if the consultant-led unit is removed.
“In the health service you need to take a broad view of services across the whole area both local and general services alongside specialist services and specialist provision and I am not satisfied that is what is happening here,” he said.
“We have a review taking place just looking at the county it seems and to pick a winner and a loser in this county means people will face massive travel times and the question being what knock-on impact that will have on other services in Birmingham?
“Of course sometimes there has to be difficult changes but I don’t think you can do it by breaking the NHS down into little bits and making each little bit be self-sustaining you have got to take a broader view across a whole area.
“We would want to have a proper look at all of these things.”
He also said they would scrap the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to remove competition between different hospital Trusts to make it easier for them to work together to find solutions to problems, in the way commissioners in Redditch and Bromsgrove had wanted to when talking to University Hospitals Birmingham in 2013 before being stopped by legal advice.
An independent clinical review panel recommended in January the consultant-led maternity unit at the Alex should be removed, but only once capacity was available in both Worcester and Birmingham.
But Birmingham Women’s Hospital’s current business plan for expansion does not include taking additional births from Redditch and Bromsgrove. It is estimated more than 1,700 of the 2,100 women who give birth at the Alex every year will want to deliver in Birmingham following the reconfiguration.
Mr Burnham’s pledge will send alarm bells ringing amongst health bosses who are believed to be under political pressure to finish the reconfiguration project ahead of next year’s General Election.
The recommendations of the ICRP are currently being worked up in detail but that could take until June. The financial implications then need to be examined and the process scrutinised by NHS England before public consultation takes place in September.
PRIME Minister David Cameron has said women should be able to give birth in the country’s major towns and cities.
Responding to a question about Stafford Hospital, where the Government has ordered a review of the decision to remove consultant-led deliveries, he said: “I was keen to ensure that despite all the difficulties at the Mid-Staffordshire hospital there was an opportunity to see whether it might be possible for the long term to have consultant-led maternity services.
“People who live in our major towns, such as Stafford, want to be able to have their babies locally. It is vital that we do that.”
Stafford borough has a population of 130,800. In comparison Redditch, Bromsgrove, Alcester and Studley has a combined population of almost 192,000.
Redditch MP Karen Lumley met with health minister Dr Dan Poulter earlier this week to discuss the maternity situation at the Alex and said she had got assurances the issue, particularly concerns around capacity, was being looked at.
“We have come a long way and secured a far better deal than many predicted but there is still a long way to go. In relation to maternity, women must have choice and certainty in the services they are offered.”
Andy Burnham with Rebecca Blake, Labour’s Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch and council leader Bill Hartnett. Picture by Marcus Mingins 1914004MMR2