CLAIMS that a project revamping hospital services in Worcestershire had been pushed back until the middle of next year have been refuted.

It was announced this week that NHS England had said the Future of Acute Hospitals in Worcestershire programme must win the approval of the West Midlands Clinical Senate before a public consultation can be launched.

It was previously hoped that the consultation into the project, which is looking at ways to streamline emergency care and other healthcare services in the county to save costs, would be launched next month, this is now in doubt.

Following the announcement the Save the Alex pressure group – which is working to preserve services at Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital – released a statement saying it was “frustrating” the project was being delayed until after next year’s election.

But a spokesman from the programme board overseeing the project said this was not correct and it was still planning to launch a consultation later this year.

Once the West Midlands Clinical Senate, an independent, non-statutory body made up of senior from a range of disciplines, has reviewed the project, it will return to NHS England who it is hoped will give the go-ahead to launch a consultation.

It is not yet known how long this may take.

Save the Alex leader Neal Stote said he hoped the delay would provide an opportunity for the project team to look at the alternative option of collaborating with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

In January an independent report was issued with a number of recommendations around how the project should continue, including creating a Major Emergency Centre at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and an Emergency Centre at the Alex.

Other recommendations included centralising consultant-led maternity services and paediatric inpatients at the Royal but creating a stand-along midwife-led birth centre in the north of the county as well as reviewing transport links between the hospitals.

Although concerns had been raised the plans may have led to the closure of the accident and emergency department at the Alex, this was not part of the panel’s recommendations.

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