THE IMPACT on Malvern residents of a countywide overhaul of emergency health services will be ‘very minimal’, health chiefs have assured.
Upgrading the Worcestershire Royal Hospital and redefining the role of community hospitals in Malvern and Tenbury are fundamental parts of the proposed future strategy, district councillors heard last week.
But they were also told ‘inadequate transport’ in the district and county to the services remained a ‘huge issue’, and Malvern patients may have to travel across Worcestershire to Redditch for planned operations such as orthopaedic surgery.
The changes which have been discussed for more than two years are seen as the way forward to prevent a £220million black hole for the NHS by 2020 – around 20 per cent of its budget.
In January the Independent Clinical Review Panel announced their findings after months of research and made seven key recommendations which would see specialised services such as paediatrics and maternity services centralised at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
Emergency services, which have been cause for the most concern with residents during the review, would be consultant led across the county.
It is likely to see the Charles Hastings Way site in Worcester moved to a ‘level one’ classification – one tier below a major trauma centre such as Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital – housing an urgent care and major emergency centres.
The restructure may yield investment in community hospitals such as the one in Malvern as health bosses are aiming to reduce admissions to A&E by up to 15 per cent claiming this will see patient’s length of stay decrease by an average of 20 per cent.
Simon Trickett, chief operating officer for NHS South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, addressed members of the district council’s overview and scrutiny committee last week.
He said: “If we get this right it is really good news for people who live here in this county and it will be of significant benefit to Malvern Hills people.
“The quality of services could be improved by the consolidation and having more specialised doctors on site.
“But generally the service changes for Malvern residents will be very minimal and relate more to those living in Redditch and Bromsgrove.”
Addressing the possibility of planned operations no longer being available at Worcester he added: “The outcome is at the heart of this strategy as it is literally a matter of life and death.
“We are aiming to improve the quality and provide a better service but you can’t do it on every street corner.”
Mr Trickett added a major part of the work in the coming months would be with Worcestershire County Council which had the ‘statutory responsibility’ to provide adequate transport, but admitted one possibility could be for the NHS to subsidise certain services.
Finally he said the proposed model for county health services now had to be worked up to make sure it was financially sustainable.
Mr Trickett said a public consultation outlining the changes should take place in September.