“ANGER and confusion” filled a meeting between health bosses and campaigners, who protested over plans to move some hospital services from Redditch to Worcester.
Campaigners protested outside a meeting of NHS Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG at Parkside in Bromsgrove on Thursday (March 23) to demand a halt to a consultation on Worcestershire's healthcare.
The call came following the tragic death of eight-year-old Redditch boy Callum Cartlidge.
Callum lived just two minutes from the Alexandra Hospital but was instead taken to Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester and died following a cardiac arrest on March 3.
Members of Callum’s family, and former nurses and midwives, were among those to attend a meeting with the CCG, alongside campaigners from It’s Our NHS Worcestershire.
Campaigners queried why Callum wasn’t taken to the Alex when the CCG stated the hospital's A&E can currently take in children.
An emotional Anita Walsh, Callum’s aunt, was among those to ask the question.
Mark Doherty, West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) executive director, who was on the panel, said ambulances take patients to the centre that “deals with them in the best way”.
He added that WMAS ambulances - rated the best in the country - are a "mobile health facility", making travelling longer distances safe to do so.
And after a 70-minute discussion, campaigners’ concerns to halt the consultation until an inquiry into Callum’s death has concluded were refused.
(ABOVE: Campaigners from It's Our NHS Worcestershire outside the meeting in Bromsgrove, Parkside)
But the panel, which included members of the CCG and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said they will “consider all responses” before any final decision is made in May.
Proposals include restricting A&E at the Alexandra to adults only and opening an Urgent Care Centre next to the department to treat both adults and children.
If passed they would look at implementing an Urgent Care Centre “as quickly as possible”.
But Neal Stote, ex-chair of the now disbanded Save the Alex, claimed the comments left people confused over who can currently attend A&E at the Alex.
He said: “I think there was a lot of confusion. We have heard that the A&E is open to adults and children. That is news to me. Why wasn’t Callum sent there?
“I know we have got to wait for the investigation but that’s where the confusion is.
“I thought since September 2016 it was adult only but today that has been contradicted.
“Clearly there was a lot of anger and upset from the public and a lot of confusion.
“Until the investigation is cleared up, to continue with a model and sign off with that is counter-productive. It doesn’t seem to add up.”
(ABOVE: One of the campaigners)
Other plans include moving births, inpatient children’s services, and emergency surgery to Worcester, with some planned orthopaedic and gynaecology surgery heading to Redditch.
Residents felt it meant the Alex was being downgraded – a claim the CCG refuted.
Dr Richard Davies, chair and clinical lead of the CCG, said: “The Alex absolutely is part of our plans for health services in the county.
“There are no plans to sell it off, downgrade it, asset strip it.
“We are centralising services to provide the quality of patient care for maternity and paediatrics.
“We are investing in the Alex hospital site for a number of services around elective surgical activity and orthopaedics which is being centralised there.
“We appreciate the pressure the Royal is under and the last thing we would do is consider downgrading the Alex any further or increasing the pressure on the Worcestershire site.”
Bromsgrove Against Cuts (BAC) campaigner Jimmy Morris-Knight said the meeting “scraped the surface” of their concerns.
(ABOVE: Supporters gather to call a suspension to the consultation following the death of Callum)
Kevin Greenway, also of BAC, added: “You can have as many models as you want, but unless something changes my bet is there will be more deaths and we will be back here regularly.”
Another supporter told the panel: “We have to trust you that your option is watertight and what happened recently [to Callum] was not the result of centralisation.”
The consultation has gone through three independent assessments to look at the model of paediatric services, and the CCG said a final report supported the model put in place.
More than 2000 people have responded to a consultation, which runs until March 30.
125 letters supporting a suspension to the consultation were also handed over.
Dr Richard Davies added: “We welcome all feedback and we will consider all the responses to the consultation before any final decision is made by the three Worcestershire CCGs.”