COMPETITION laws could be broken if Birmingham trusts take over a Worcestershire hospital say local NHS chiefs.

Senior GPs in the north of the county are in talks with several Birmingham NHS trusts about the possibility of one of them running the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.

The Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group, which pays for services in the north of Worcestershire, is in talks with University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust about the possibility of the Redditch hospital being run by one of them.

The future of the Alexandra Hospital was discussed at a meeting of the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust at Southcrest Manor Hotel in Redditch today.

Chief executive Penny Venables said: “There are issues that would need to be confirmed around competition law. What we have made clear as a trust is that we are committed to providing the fullest range of services we can across all three of our hospital sites. The work on the JSR is not yet complete.”

Leaders at the Clinical Senate unanimously voted to centralise A&E, obstetrics and paediatrics at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester, closing those services at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. The aim is to make 24 hour a day, seven day per week care easier to deliver and cut costs at a time when an elderly population is growing faster than the amount of cash available to pay for their care.

However, no formal options have yet been announced about the future shape of county health services after the models were first put into the public arena last summer. It is hoped proposals for ‘public engagement’ can be announced in March, 14 months after the ‘joint services review’ into the future of local health services was launched. The JSR was due to deliver options for public engagement in December, meaning they are already three months behind schedule.

The JSR has left a cloud hanging over the Alexandra Hospital while project leaders seek to address shortages in staff, including middle grade doctors, and save money (£50 million across acute hospitals) through centralising certain key services.
Non-executive director Bryan McGinty said Eamonn Kelly, chief executive of NHS Worcestershire, had indicated a number of potential issues with a Birmingham NHS trust taking over the Alexandra Hospital, including that it may be ‘infringing competition law’.

Chris Fearns, director of strategic development, said: “The delay (in the JSR) in the eyes and ears of the public and particularly for our staff is probably very tough to understand and quite disappointing.”