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By Ian Dipple Thursday 24 January 2013 Updated: 28/01 10:52
THE TRUST which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham is in talks about taking over services at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, the Standard can confirm.
Although it has long been rumoured, Redditch MP Karen Lumley publicly confirmed the news commissioners were negotiating with University Hospitals Birmingham following a report in a rival publication which suggested clinicians had agreed vital services such as paediatrics, maternity and A&E should be centralised into Worcester.
Mrs Lumley said it was time to bring into the open talks which have been happening behind the scenes for some months after it became apparent the public would not accept proposals put forward as part of the Joint Services Review to severely downgrade the Alex.
Mrs Lumley said she had met with senior officials from UHB and was encouraged by what they had to offer which could include investment to provide services never before available at the Redditch site.
"Centralising all services into Worcester is not acceptable to the people of Redditch and I am pleased the commissioners are talking to UHB as well as the Worcestershire Trust," she said.
"It is important we are open and transparent with the people of Redditch and now is the time to do that.
"Redditch has close links to Birmingham, we have good transport links so people can get there, and I think the people of Redditch would be well served by UHB, which is one of the best teaching hospitals in the country.
"This option needs to be explored fully and quickly so we can have some certainty, not only for staff but patients as well."
No details have been revealed about the range of services UHB will be able to provide but commissioners have previously hinted it is unlikely they will be able to maintain services in their current guise at the Woodrow Drive site as issues with funding and a lack of doctors in certain specialities remain.
But about 90 per cent of what the Alex currently does will remain under any deal, which the Standard understand will include some form of A&E, maternity and paediatric services.
Neal Stote, head of the Save the Alex Campaign, welcomed the news and said it was a far cry from where the campaign had started six months ago which could have seen the Alex closed or reduced to a cottage hospital.
"It's disappointing to see scaremongering which does not represent what is actually happening. The potential of UHB providing services and even investing at the Alexandra Hospital site is very exciting. What needs to be made clear by the UHB is what services they will provide," he said.
"What the Save the Alex Campaign wants to know is will the range of services provided be better than and more sustainable than what Worcester offered in their original six models for future health care.
"The public have stood up and are being heard, the challenge to us all is to now to shout louder, fight harder and lobby harder to ensure our local health services remain."
WAHT is believed to be deeply unhappy about the announcement as it is understood it still hopes to provide services at the Alex and is working on an alternative to the models originally proposed which could have seen the Alex reduced to just a diagnostic and outpatients centre.
But doctors in Wyre Forest and South Worcestershire are believed to be happy to allow the Birmingham Trust in to takeover the Alex, as long as what remains of the Worcestershire Trust is sustainable.
Any detailed options will not be released until towards the end of February at the earliest. The Joint Services Review process has been delayed again as financial experts are working through the figures and cost implications of the option or options which will be put to the public and formally consulted on.
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