'DISAPPOINTING' delays to a review into the future of hospital services have been driven by 'political interference' says Worcester's MP.

The controversial review has already been beset by several delays, ending hopes that the public would be able to have its say this year on the future of services at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.

Public consultation will now take place on the clinically-led preferred model after the General Election in May 2015, nearly three and a half years after the original 'joint services review' was launched in January 2012.

The delay has caused concern from Worcester's Conservative MP, Robin Walker, and patient champion Paul Crawford, a throat cancer survivor who has campaigned for a better deal for county patients.

The hospitals review began life as the 'joint services review' and was intended to save £50 million across all three hospitals as demand for services rises faster than the cash available to pay for it, an inevitable consequence of a growing population living longer with complex and serious health needs as well as the cost of new drugs, treatments and technologies. The formal consultation on the shake-up was due to take place between September and July 2012 which gives some idea of how sluggish the process has been compared to the original expectations.

Mr Walker said: "I think it's disappointing.The process has taken too long. That is because there has been too much political interference from certain quarters. The sooner we can get this sorted the better. What has been set out in terms of the Alexandra Hospital staying with Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is the best solution for the county - for Redditch and for Worcester."

Mr Walker said he was now discussing the matter with Ministers. Retired hospital consultant Dr Richard Taylor, the former Kidderminster MP, who is once more standing as an MP for Health Concern is concerned more staff could leave because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of services.

Paul Crawford, aged 73, of Highfield Close, Droitwich, who is a patient representative on the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust board, said: "We have to be careful our services don't become unsafe because we haven't done what we were going to do. I'm concerned that patients are left in a vulnerable position in terms of their treatment. The trust has told me that, no matter what, they will make sure that doesn't happen. I was assured patient services would not suffer. I don't mind if the consultation is delayed as along as patients are not going to suffer."

Mr Crawford with some hospital consultants were among those to express their concern last year about the possibility of the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust taking over the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch. Consultants were worried the viability of county-wide hospital services would suffer if another provider was brought in to run Worcestershire Royal's sister hospital, the Alex.

The clinical model now being discussed involves more planned surgery at the Alex including the development of countywide centres of excellence for orthopaedics and urology together with a specialist upper gastro-intestinal surgery service. There would be an emergency centre at Redditch, allaying concerns about the closure of the A&E there, and a major emergency centre at Worcestershire Royal. However, overnight children's services and consultant-led births would be centralised at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester. The West Midlands Clinical Senate will not be able to complete a review of the proposal until December but the public consultation will not take place until after the General Election in May because health bosses from Worcestershire's three Clinical Commissioning Groups, are concerned about the impact of the election on any public consultation process.