NEONATAL services will remain at Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital for the time being despite a national shortage of specialist nurses.
In June it was announced Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust was considering moving all high-risk births to Worcestershire Royal Hospital after a combination of retirements, maternity leave and inability to recruit new specialist neonatal staff resulted in “exceedingly fragile” staffing rotas.
As a result the trust – which runs the Alex and the Royal as well as Kidderminster Hospital – was considering moving all births where the mother is less than 37 weeks pregnant when they go into labour in Worcester rather than Redditch. The current cut-off point is 34 weeks, with the average pregnancy lasting 42 weeks.
But at a meeting of the trust’s board on Wednesday, September 3 chief executive Penny Venables said they had been able to recruit some new staff and as a result services would remain at the Alex for the time being.
“We are confident that we can keep these staffing rotas going throughout the autumn period,” she said.
Mrs Venables added the trust is working with Birmingham Children’s Hospital in an effort to develop a long-term solution to the problem.
Neil Stote, chairman of pressure group Save the Alex, which has long campaigned for the trust to collaborate with services in Birmingham to ensure patients in the north of the county do not have to travel to Worcester, welcomed the announcement.
"It just shows what can be done if you don't turn a blind eye to what is on offer in north Worcestershire," he said.
"If they'd started talking with Birmingham Children's Hospital in 2005 and bit the bullet we wouldn't be in the position we are now.
"Patients don't mind who's providing services as long as they're free at the point of use and accessible."
If the plans do go ahead at a future point consultant-led obstetric or paediatric services at the Alex will not be affected.
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.