STRUCTURE: Plans to close a financial hole due to open in Worcestershire acute services’ budget next year have been put on hold until after the May election.

The delay was announced last month by Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group, which is one of the three CCGs covering the area. The other two are South Worcestershire and Wyre Forest CCGs.

Plans to put acute services across Worcestershire on to  a financially sustainable footing started in January 2012 as services face a funding gap of up to £200m by 2015-16.

People in polling booths

The proximity of the general election has led to the public consultation for the proposals being delayed

They are currently provided by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, which runs three hospital in Worcester, Redditch and Kidderminster. Between them, they provide two emergency departments, two paediatric inpatient units and two obstetric departments at Worcester Royal Hospital and Alexandra Hospital.

The trust and commissioners all accept the current arrangement is not financially viable. There are also concerns about quality and safety because of difficulties recruiting consultants in some specialities.

Under a proposal put forward by an independent clinical review panel this year, A&E services at Alexandra Hospital would be downgraded into a networked 24/7 service, linked to the A&E at Worcester Royal.

The Redditch site would have a round the clock GP led urgent care centre and minor injuries unit and keep its consultant led paediatric assessment unit during the day. Children requiring inpatient care would be transferred to the Worcester hospital.

As the removal of inpatient paediatrics from Reddich would render its obstetrics services unviable, this too will be transferred to Worcester Royal. A midwifery led unit would remain at Reddich.

Plans for the £35m transformation of acute services across the county were due to be put out to public consultation in September.

The plans are due to have been reviewed by the West Midlands Clinical Senate by December, but the proximity of the election next May has led to the public consultation being shelved until after polling day.

Jo Newton, chair of the joint services review programme board, said it was “fully committed to delivering the proposed clinical changes”.

“We believe that they are necessary to secure the best outcomes for patients across Worcestershire.

“Our immediate focus now will be on ensuring the safety and sustainability of current acute hospital services, particularly in paediatrics, obstetrics and emergency surgery in this interim period.”