Agenda item

Save the Alex

To invite a representative of the Save the Alex campaign to put forward their views about proposed changes to Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust’s services.


(Update to follow)


The Chair welcomed Mr Neal Stote from the Save the Alex campaign to the meeting.  The commission was advised that due to the significant amount of work undertaken by the Save the Alex campaign it had been considered appropriate to offer campaign representatives an opportunity to deliver a 20 minute presentation during the meeting.  Prior to the start of this presentation the Chair thanked Mr Stote and the other campaigners on behalf of the commission for his work campaigning to protect hospital services.


Mr Stote then proceeded to deliver a presentation for the consideration of the commission (the presentation is attached in the background papers pack for this meeting).  During the delivery of this presentation the following points were highlighted for the consideration of the commissioners:


·                There had been a long battle to Save the Alex during which the campaign had received a lot of public support.

·                Worcestershire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) had discussed the changes on various occasions and the Committee’s minutes provided useful evidence in terms of the chronology of events.

·                The proposals in respect of Maternity and Paediatrics services appeared to be very similar to those which had first been discussed in 2005/08.  These had been opposed by the public and rejected at the time.

·                In 2012 prior to the launch of the Joint Services Review (JSR) it had seemed that the A&E department at the Alexandra Hospital would be retained as well as Maternity Services.

·                The subsequent proposal to move maternity services to Worcester Royal from the Alexandra Hospital had caused outrage; 54,421 people had signed a petition opposing the move and changes to services.

·                In the JSR the two options identified, the first for services to be provided by WAHT and the second to work with another provider, had been fully debated by HOSC.

·                In June 2013 legal advice to WAHT had led to the rejection of option two.  Save the Alex had ensured that this legal advice was placed in the public domain and had found that University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust had not been consulted about this.

·                An Independent Review Panel had also considered both options and had found in favour of a modified version of Option One.  Concerns were raised that the full facts in respect of Option Two had not been shared with the independent panel.

·                The modified Option One had been supported by the independent panel in January 2014, to involve the centralisation of maternity and inpatient paediatrics, an adult A&E department and ante-natal care from the Alexandra Hospital.

·                Concerns were raised that the Alexandra Hospital did not now have the specialist staff needed to work in an inpatient Paediatrics Department.

·                The current proposals for changes to services implied that the A&E Department at the Alexandra Hospital would be downgraded as patients such as children and young people would be diverted to Worcester Royal Hospital.

·                The proposals were reported to represent the clinical view, however, concerns were raised that this followed the resignation of four clinical consultants from the Alexandra Hospital due to concerns about service sustainability and staffing levels and their implications for patient safety.

·                Following the departure of these consultants other staff had left the Alexandra Hospital. 

·                The Save the Alex campaign had consulted with Mr Gary Walker a former NHS Trust Executive for an independent view of the trust’s proposals.  Mr Walker had concluded that the process followed by the trust had been flawed.

·                Many of the proposed changes focused on keeping services safe for residents of Worcestershire; however it was suggested that this focus at a sub-regional level was not ideal and that health services should not be set in accordance with local boundaries but seen as a national health service.

·                The Independent Review Panel did not appear to have taken into account the Trust’s financial position, despite persistent problems with a budget deficit. 

·                When the review of the trust’s services had originally been announced it had been suggested that the review would only take six months, though in fact it had taken five years.

·                Concerns were raised about the safety of home births as an option for mothers living in Redditch following the centralisation of Maternity Services.

·                Questions were raised about the impact of the proposed changes on the West Midlands Ambulance Service.  Members were advised that it would be helpful if the Health Commission could investigate this further.

·                Stroke services had also been centralised and it had been suggested that a similar approach adopted in London demonstrated that this could work at a local level.  However, Members were asked to note that London was very different to Worcestershire.

·                Documentation released by Redditch Borough Council had acknowledged that deprivation levels in Redditch were relatively high compared to the rest of the county.  Concerns were therefore raised that the proposed changes would have a detrimental impact on the most vulnerable residents.

·                Transportation difficulties and the impact on safe access to centralised services had been raised by Councillors and residents for some time.

·                The hopper bus would potentially help some residents though concerns were raised that there was a lack of clarity about whether this service would remain in place after the three month trial had ended and, if so, whether it would remain available to access for free.

·                Concerns were also raised that there had been limited publicity about the hopper bus and this could have impacted on public awareness.

·                The CCGs’ consultation document claimed that 95 per cent of patients would continue to access care at the same hospital as now and 80 per cent of children would continue to receive care in Redditch.  It was suggested that further clarity about the areas that would not be covered would be helpful.

·                The CCG and trust were acknowledging that whilst the budget for the NHS had increased the financial position of the trust was static due to growing demand.  The commission was urged to raise concerns about future funding arrangements in order to ensure the sustainability of the NHS with the Government.

·                Encouraging the Government and Department of Health (DoH) to take into account the needs of Redditch residents and the future of the Alexandra Hospital was considered crucial to the future of health services in the area.

·                The problems the trust had encountered attempting to recruit specialist staff were well documented.  Therefore it was questioned how realistic it would be for the trust to recruit the 10 A&E consultants for the Alexandra Hospital and Worcester Royal Hospital as stipulated by the West Midlands Clinical Senate.

Supporting documents: