A STAFF shortage could mean some neonatal services are moved from Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

In the face of a national shortage of specialist neonatal nurses it was revealed yesterday that Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – the organisation running Royal and the Alex as well as Kidderminster Hospital – was considering moving all high-risk births to Worcester.

If the plans go ahead all women who are less than 37 weeks pregnant when they go into labour would be treated at the Royal rather than the Alex. The current cut-off point is 34 weeks, with the average pregnancy lasting 42 weeks.

In a statement a spokesman said the trust was: “becoming increasingly concerned about the ability to run high quality, safe neonatal services for the smallest and sickest babies across both the Alexandra and Worcestershire Royal Hospitals.

“A combination of retirements, maternity leave and an inability to recruit specialist neonatal nurses has left Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust with exceedingly fragile neonatal staffing rotas,” she said.

She added the plans would not affect consultant-led obstetric or paediatric services at the Alex.

“This is only a possibility at the moment and if it happens it will be on patient safety grounds and on a temporary basis only until the neonatal nurse staffing problems are resolved,” she said.

Neil Stote, chairman of Save the Alex – a pressure group campaigning to keep the A&E department at the Alexandra Hospital open – branded the revelation “disappointing and infuriating”.

“I understand and agree that patient safety must come first but I do not believe for one second that all has been done to solve this staffing crisis,” he said.

“The so-called temporary part closure of the consultant-led delivery service is anything but temporary – history shows that hospital services that are temporally closed never reopen.”

He said he believed the news marked “the beginning of the end” for consultant-led births at the Alex and vowed to continue to fight against the plans, branding them "nonsense".

In an effort to maintain safe staffing levels the trust has implemented a number of changes such as giving nursing and medical staff additional specialist training and the Alex’s neonatal unit will also hold an open day for trained or student nurses and midwives on Thursday, July 10.

One of the proposals contained in a project working to restructure hospital services in Worcestershire is that consultant-led maternity services should be centralised at the Royal but a stand-alone midwife-led birth centre be set up in Redditch.

For more information on the project visit worcsfuturehospitals.co.uk.