THE chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire, the group which represent Worcestershire patients, has welcomed the response of the chief executive of the NHS Simon Stevens after lobbying for extra cash.

Healthwatch chairman Peter Pinfield wrote to chief executive Simon Stevens asking if more money could be released sooner from the promised £30 million capital investment in the Worcestershire Acute Trust sites.

In the letter Mr Pinfield said: "I am writing on behalf of Healthwatch Worcestershire to ask that you agree to the request made by Worcestershire Acute Hospital Trust for immediate release of capital funds, previously approved as part of their Outline Business Case.

"This money is urgently required to enable the trust to carry out work to refurbish Aconbury East ward, so they can increase their bed capacity in time for next winter. This would not be possible within the currently agreed timescales.

"We have seen the impact and received feedback from patients about the current limited capacity of the Acute Hospitals. We feel that it is vital that this is addressed as a matter of urgency.

"We therefore feel that agreeing to this request is essential to ensure that Worcestershire Royal Hospital is able to provide the care required to patients in Worcestershire next winter."

In response, Alison Tonge, director of commissioning operations (West Midlands) NHS England, on behalf of Mr Stephens, replied by letter.

The response said: "A Full Business Case is required to release this capital which is scheduled for submission in September 2018, following approval of this capital would be released.

"The system has however sought to accelerate through an application for a loan of £8m (from the original approved £29.6m).

"This loan will enable earlier reconfiguration of the site, in particular the Aconbury East ward refurbishment and link to the main site.

"This will provide 81 beds refurbished in readiness for 2018-19 winter.

"The approval of this loan is subject to assurance by the National team (NHS Improvement/ Department of Health) during April 2018 to enable work to commence during May 2018.

"You can be assured that we are working jointly on this issue to enable this capital to be secured and work to commence."

Mr Pinfield told the Worcester News that he was pleased Healthwatch had been successful in getting the government to release more capital monies.

"Healthwatch decided to write and lobby for a release of extra capital this year whilst the developers were on site," he said.

"So to hear that permission in principle has been given to release the money is great news.

"Lets now get on and improve and kit out those new wards."