COMMENTS by the new head of the NHS that care in the community must play a bigger role in healthcare have received a cautious welcome in Worcestershire.

Simon Stevens, who took up the post of NHS chief executive last month, said the organisation must end “mass centralisation” and expand services such as community hospitals.

In an interview published in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Stevens said patients were being robbed of “dignity and compassion” because of a lack of local care.

A major review of services at the three major hospitals in Worcestershire – Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Kidderminster Hospital and Redditch Alexandra Hospital – is currently ongoing.

And Peter Pinfield, chairman of watchdog Healthwatch Worcestershire, said it remains to be seen exactly what impact will be seen in the county.

“We’re in a privileged position in Worcestershire because we’ve already got the equivalent of cottage hospitals dotted around the county,” he said.

“It does make sense that we would make the best of these services before we start to disentangle what we’ve already got.

“I don’t know whether Mr Stevens is saying there are going to be more resources to help us shape some of the smaller services, however.

“It is interesting that the head of the NHS is standing up for small community hospitals, but that doesn’t mean we are going to get all-singing, all-dancing seven day a week services at all sites – that’s just not affordable.”

A spokesman from Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust – which runs community hospitals – said Mr Stevens’ comments were in line with its current five-year plan to treat as many patients as possible in their own homes.

“One example is our service which looks after older people with complex needs in their homes in order to prevent them from being admitted into acute hospitals and to help maintain their independence,” she said.

“Our ongoing communication with the public has allowed us to concentrate our efforts towards greater care closer to home.”