REDDITCH MP Karen Lumley met with Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, yesterday (January 9) along with Robin Walker, MP for Worcester, to discuss problems at the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.
As a result of that meeting, the Department of Health are looking at short term and long term solutions to the extreme pressure the Trust has seen over the Christmas and New Year period. Mrs Lumley was able to seek assurances from the Health Secretary that there would be immediate help to alleviate the issues.
“We must make sure this never happens again. Right now they are putting in additional help for our hospitals including opening a new ward. In the longer term we must be looking at the issue of capacity at all the Worcestershire hospitals,” she said.
The Health Secretary was also quizzed on the £29million which is regarded as essential to ensure the implementation of the programme for the future of acute hospital care in Worcestershire, which is currently out for consultation.
Health chiefs had been hoping the money would be there before the consultation was launched, however the Government said no cash would be forthcoming until after this had finished, at the end of March.
However then there would only be a short opportunity to secure the funding before entering ‘purdah’ in the run up to local elections in May which means it could be June or July before the money is available.
However Mrrs Lumley said: “As a direct result of the meeting, the Secretary of State was able to confirm that they would be very sympathetic when looking at the bid for capital funding.”
The problems at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust have been well trailered – the Care Quality Commission put the trust into ‘special measures’ in 2015 and the trust recently hosted another ‘risk summit’ – the second in less than two years – to address care concerns.
Then came the death of two people on trolleys in Accident & Emergency at Worcestershire Royal Hospital last week and the suicide of another patient on a ward.
Just before Christmas senior nursing support from NHS Improvement was put into the trust and extra medical wards were opened.
Over the weekend more help was put in from NHS Improvement including management support and additional consultant cover to support discharge from the hospital.
Since Christmas two additional wards have been made available at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital to cope with the increase in emergency patients but plans are now in place to deliver a third as soon as staffing can be arranged for it.
In his statement which included additional investment in mental health, Jeremy Hunt announced further measures to help with the situation nationally, including funding for more GPs to help with triage at A&Es and was at pains to point out that extra help would be provided to Worcestershire.
The Health Secretary said: “Subject to staffing, a new ward will be opened at the trust next week, and a new chief executive will arrive in the spring. We recognise the need for capital spending to increase capacity at both the Alex and the royal, and we will consider that bid sympathetically.”
Mr Walker said: ““I welcome the clear intention to fund capital expansion at Worcester and Redditch and the clear and urgent focus on improving the situation at our local hospitals but I am deeply concerned that we should have reached a situation where Worcestershire is at the centre of national concerns about hospital safety.
“I never want to see this happen again. When our trust was put into special measures last year I said that patient safety must be paramount and I have taken up the concerns of all the constituents who have contacted me over the last few weeks both with the Trust and with the Department of Health.”