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By Ian Dipple Thursday 08 November 2012 Updated: 08/11 16:09
ANY FURTHER delays in reaching a decision on the future make-up of hospitals services in the county would threaten the existence of the Trust which runs Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
Penny Venables, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, warned there was a real risk from 2014 they would not be able to make the financial savings needed or staff services safely without implementing changes proposed as part of the Joint Services Review, whatever the outcome.
The process was delayed in September and again in October as health bosses were unable to agree on a viable set of options to put to the public.
The Trust needs to save £50million over the next three years and says it is capable of finding £30million of that from internal efficiency savings.
But Mrs Venables said 2014 was a key year as they would be unable to make anymore savings without changing services, while another delay could also derail their bid to become a Foundation Trust, which if not approved by 2014 would see the Trust broken up.
"We have to keep an eye on the fact currently we are clinically safe, but by 2014 there is a further reduction in junior doctors in certain specialities across the country and Herefordshire and Worcestershire will be affected. The implementation of these changes are not going to happen overnight, they are going to take time so we are mindful of this, " she told the county council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday (November 6).
"The most important thing is we get this right. This does take us right up to the wire in regard to our Foundation Trust status and any other delay would some difficulties with that."
Clinicians are currently halfway through the extra work they need to do as a result of the decision last month to ditch the possibility of closing or severely downgrading the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and instead try and provide as many services as possible on all three hospital sites.
A meeting is set for December 18 when it is hoped detailed options will be worked up and released in the second half of January for a second round of public engagement, before public consultation in March. But it depends on reaching an agreement with politicians as it would clash with campaigning for next May's county council elections. A final decision is expected in June.
But Simon Hairsnape, chief officer for NHS Worcestershire, warned a further delay was possible.
"We don't know what options will pan out or if we will be in a position to make a decision but we hope we are," he said.
"We are still confident we can get a solution that is clinically safe, financially sustainable and right for patients locally."
"It's important we get this right and don't end up with an unsustainable fudge of any kind - that would be the worst thing we could do."
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