A HOSPITAL chaplain working in Worcestershire has said attacks made by a campaign group are damaging staff morale.

Save the Alex was formed in reaction to concerns over the future of the A&E department at Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital, and has since campaigned determinedly to ensure preserve health services for patients in the north of the county.

But Worcestershire Royal Hospital chaplain Rev David Southall has said the way the group had run its campaign – primarily by lobbying outside hospitals and making numerous attacks against members of the board of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, the organisation running the Royal and the Alex as well as Kidderminster Hospital – was having a damaging effect on staff and patients.

“They are chipping away at morale in what are challenging times,” he said.

“Lots of my NHS colleagues have been in touch with me saying it’s having an eroding effect. They’re not doing Worcestershire’s health service any favours, although I think they believe they are.”

Save the Alex was formed in reaction to an extensive review of the county’s hospital services – which is still ongoing after more than three years – led to concerns the Alex’s A&E could be closed.

But Rev Southall, who writes a weekly “good news”

column in your Worcester News’ health supplement, said he did not believe the group’s campaign was in patient’s best interests.

“In my view they’re not putting patients first,” he said.

“This isn’t a failing trust as Save the Alex would have you think and it’s not a badly managed trust. If it was it would be in special measures.”

Despite Save the Alex claiming they represent the interests of staff, particularly those at the Alex, Rev Southall said he did not believe this was the case.

“In any organisation of 6,000 people you are going to get those who are anxious about their jobs or their mortgages and you are going to get these who disagree with management,” he said. “But the vast majority of staff I speak to recognise what we face is a national NHS problem, not a local management problem.”

Following the resignation of five A&E consultants on the same day earlier this month members of Save the Alex staged a protest at a meeting of the trust’s board at Kidderminster Hospital on Wednesday, February 25.

Members filled the public gallery holding signs saying ‘I have no confidence in Worcester Acute Hospital Trust management’, and left after about 90 minutes, once the board had discussed its financial position.

Speaking after the meeting, the group’s chairman Neal Stote denied claims they were damaging staff morale.

“I have not heard a single staff member who has said we’ve damaged morale,” he said. “All the staff do a wonderful job, it’s the management who we’re concerned about. If we were wrong about the claims we’ve been making the review would be done by now.

“As it is the trust has let five of the people go who could have sorted it out.”

Last week members of the group also travelled to London alongside Redditch and Bromsgrove MPs Karen Lumley and Sajid Javid to meet health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

But the Conservative minister refused to take action, saying it was a decision to be made by local NHS bosses rather than central government.