PEOPLE recovering from stroke in Bromsgrove will have to face an arduous 25-mile journey to Evesham for treatment, following controversial cuts to services at Princess of Wales Community Hospital.
Stroke rehabilitation beds are currently provided in three sites across the county - eight at Bromsgrove, eight at Timberdine Community Unit in Worcester and 16 at Evesham Community Hospital.
But Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust said it has become too difficult to manage all three, due to a shortage of consultants.
Last Wednesday, the NHS Trust's board approved plans to consolidate Worcestershire's stroke rehab services at Evesham, meaning stroke patients in Bromsgrove travelling around 25 miles further for treatment.
For those using public transport, the journey would involve at least two buses.
The trust's lead for community care in South Worcestershire Mel Roberts admitted the move was not 'a perfect solution', but said: "We have to make sure the service we provide is safe and gives the best care possible and we believe that, at this time, given the issues securing suitable consultant cover, this is best done on one site rather than being spread too thinly across three."
The trust has pledged to develop ideas to make it easier for patients across the county who will now be travelling to Evesham for rehab treatment.
This includes increasing visiting times for families travelling from elsewhere in the county, support with identifying public transport options, investigating digital options and supporting hospital volunteers in helping patients stay in touch with family while on the ward.
But residents have already expressed concerns about patients having to trek to Evesham for treatment.
Annalisa Yorke, who lives in Norton, takes both of her parents to the Princess of Wales for weekly rehab treatment and said the decision would be a 'huge loss to the area'.
She said: "This really saddens me. Dad went to Evesham for a short while after his stroke and it's was a nightmare to travel to and the visiting hours were very strict. I made a nuisance of myself just to get dad to Princess of Wales Community Hospital and the treatment he received was excellent."
Bernice Jones, regional director for the Stroke Association in Bromsgrove, said the charity supported the specialist care being provided in one place, but added: “We would like to see consideration in the future of a second stroke rehabilitation centre in the north of the county. Family support is hugely important to stroke survivors, and this would help ensure families and carers can visit their loved ones.”
The plans are set to come into effect in early April, but Evesham will start taking more new admissions from this week.