DELAYS deciding the future of acute hospital services in Worcestershire are making it difficult to plan for future health needs, an influential GP has warned.

With a review into how and where hospital services should be provided still rumbling on after more than 18 months, Dr Jim Goodwin reveals that the uncertainty is causing a “planning blight” for those charged with spending NHS budgets efficiently and effectively.

Dr Goodman, a GP in Stourport and a clinical commissioning group representative on Worcestershire’s powerful health and wellbeing board, is urging those involved in the complex review to reach a resolution as soon as possible.

Worcestershire’s three commissioning groups are charged with deciding how the county’s NHS funding should be spent and currently plough half of their total cash into acute services. Dr Goodman said: “It is a struggle not knowing where we are going to be next year or maybe even the year after that – or after that.”

Health and wellbeing board chairman Councillor Marcus Hart has also demanded assurances that the review is moving forward with “the requisite pace”.

“This whole review was predicated on patient safety,” he said. “We need to reassure ourselves that the appropriate pace is taking place and that residents of Worcestershire have some indication that a transparent review is under way and there is a timeline for decision making.”

David Williams, director of operations and delivery for NHS England in Arden, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, said he would be better able to give answers once an independent review comes to an end.

“I think we will be able to say then what the timescales are and it will depend on what that clinical panel says,” he said. “The big issue is to make sure that we get to the right response.

Two options for acute hospitals in Worcestershire are being considered. One is for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust to continue running Worcestershire Royal, Redditch’s Alexandra and Kidderminster hospitals, with services including A&E downgraded at Redditch in favour of centralisation at Worcester.

However, stripping services from the Alexandra is not supported by doctors in the north of the county.

The alternative is for another provider, likely to be a Birmingham-based trust, to take over the Alexander.