CONCERNS have been raised over a decision by the body running Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital not to accept any patients from outside the city.

At the end of August University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) – which runs the QE – stopped accepting referrals from GPs outside the city for general surgery, pain management, dermatology, urology as well as ear, nose and throat procedures, although cancer patients are still being accepted.

Speaking at a meeting of Worcestershire County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee chief officer with Wyre Forest and Redditch and Bromsgrove CCGs Simon Hairsnape said he understood why the decision had been taken, but did not fully agree it was the right one.

“At the moment it’s affecting 61 patients who would have wanted to go to the QE and haven’t been able to do so,” he said. “These are mostly patients in Redditch and Bromsgrove for whom the QE is actually closer than the Alexandra Hospital.

“It’s an issue that we are working through.”

But UHB chief executive Dame Julie Moore said the trust had seen a steady increase in demand over the past few years and had been forced to fully re-open the former QE, which was supposed to be closed after the new site was opened in 2010.

“On one level that’s really good,” she said. “I’m really pleased people want to come to the QE and I’m really, really sorry we’ve had to do this.”

But she laid the blame for the dramatic increase in patients from Worcestershire going to the QE – said to be up by 56 per cent over the past few years – at the uncertainty over the future of Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital.

“This is about uncertainty,” she said.

“In times like this patients go to a place of certainty.

“This has been going on for too long.”

But Mr Hairsnape said the trend may have been partially down to health trusts in Worcestershire encouraging people to visit hospitals with shorter waiting times to ease pressure on those with more demand, which may have pushed more to visit the QE, where patients are typically seen fairly quickly.

“There are two sides to the story,” he said.

Dame Julie also denied claims the trust was breaching the NHS constitution by refusing to accept referrals from Worcestershire, saying patients only needed to be given a choice of four different places to be treated and these could be anywhere in the country.

UHB chairman Jacqui Smith – who served as Home Secretary in Gordon Brown’s government – said the decision had been taken to ensure specialist treatments for which the QE is the only hospital in the region to offer were not put at risk.

She added, although a large part of the trust's demand was coming from Worcestershire, the decision applied to all areas outside Birmingham.

The decision is due to be reviewed at the end of this month.