A HEALTH chief in south Worcestershire has admitted the NHS in its current form is "unsustainable" - and has defended plans for a major shake-up of hospital services.
Dr Carl Ellson, chief clinical officer for NHS South Worcestershire, says he is determined to try and tackle growing problems before they get worse.
He also says the current acute trust clinical services review, which is still ongoing, needs to be finalised soon to avoid a crisis in five or 10 years time.
Dr Ellson took part in a Q&A with a panel of Worcester city councillors this week to be grilled on the plans.
During the debate Councillor Joy Squires, Labour's Worcester parliamentary candidate, said she was deeply concerned about growing NHS problems.
The south Worcestershire acute trust, which is facing a four per cent year-on-year cut in funding and growing demographic pressures, has examined 13 different models of new clinical care.
A new plan for hospitals in Worcester, Redditch and Kidderminster is expected to emerge in the coming months, leading to a consultation.
Dr Ellson, speaking to the scrutiny committee, said: "We are aiming to think ahead to five or 10 years time before those problems arrive, otherwise we'll get there and wonder why we didn't act sooner.
"Fundamentally, the plan is for most of the acute stuff to be done at Worcester (Worcestershire Royal) and the other sites will be more like 'centres of excellence' for specialised care needs.
"It was a clinical decision to start this process as well as a financial one, we know the health service is not well off for money and we need sustainability."
Councillor Mike Whitehouse said: "How difficult is it to look at the future when even central Government doesn't know where its finances are heading?
"It's all cut, cut, cut."
Dr Ellson said: "What we've got to do is put ourselves in as good a position as possible to sustain the next five years.
"I believe a better way ahead is closer integration with local authorities - we're in challenging times."
Cllr Squires said there was "a big crisis in A&E", and suggested the position of the trust "seems to be worse" than it was before.
Dr Ellson said: "I agree the NHS is going through some problems. The NHS by its very nature is fragmented, it's trying to keep all the plates spinning and it's not sustainable."