THERE may be no need to centralise some neonatal services at Worcestershire Royal Hospital despite concerns around staff shortages.
In June it was revealed Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs the Royal as well as Kidderminster Hospital and Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital – was considering moving all high-risk births to Worcester in the face of a staffing crisis.
But this week the trust’s chief executive Penny Venables said rotas were fully staffed until the end of August.
“We haven’t brought in any changes yet,” she said.
“If we can get through to January next year we’ll have new people who have finished the training course.
“The problem could come if we get norovirus in September and people go off sick.”
Concerns were first raised following an unusually high amount of retirements and staff going on maternity leave coupled with a national shortage of specialist neonatal staff.
Trust chairman Harry Turner said the organisation was considering using temporary agency staff if necessary.
“We are managing the rota on a week by week basis,” he said.
“We’re ok until the end of August but there are some risks further than that.”
The provisional plans announced in June would involve all women who are less than 37 weeks pregnant when they go into labour treated at the Royal rather than the Alex. The current cut-off point is 34 weeks with the average pregnancy lasting 42 weeks.
In an effort to maintain safe staffing levels the trust has implemented a number of changes such as giving nursing and medical staff additional specialist training and has also launched a recruitment campaign.
The trust has said plans would not affect consultant-led obstetric or paediatric services at the Alex and will only be a temporary measure.
It takes nurses two years to complete the course allowing them to specialise in neonatal nursing.
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.