A POLITICAL row has broken out over plans to axe the maternity department at the Alexandra Hospital.

The town's Conservative Parliamentary spokeswoman, Karen Lumley, claims the Alex is bearing the brunt of the county's health service cost-cutting measures.

"Why is it Redditch is being made to pay for a deficit budget mainly caused by overspends at the hospital in Worcester?

``Our children will be paying the price of these cuts for years to come," she said.

Mrs Lumley believes centralising maternity and paediatrics will cause huge problems for parents and mums-to-be.

"We all accept huge amounts of money have gone into the NHS in the last few years and have indeed paid more in National Insurance but the question that now has to be answered is where has it all gone?" she added.

"Redditch deserves and expects a decent health service here locally at the Alex.

``In 1997, Labour said they had 24 hours to save the NHS. Well they have got until the autumn to save our services at the Alex or they will be properly judged by the people of Redditch."

But Jacqui Smith MP hit back, saying: "I will be challenging the medical advice the trust say they have and fighting the case for Redditch on the facts, not spurious politically-driven points like the Conservatives.

"I want to win this fight, like we have already won on A&E, cancer and eye services -- we won't do that by political point scoring but by challenging the arguments being put forward by managers for the changes.

``It's a fight I think we can win, whatever the Conservatives try to do to undermine the campaign."

Ms Smith met Save the Alex campaigners after Thursday's meeting of the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to discuss the future of health services in the area.

Save the Alex campaign leader Neal Stote said it was a "very productive meeting".

He added: "Like us, Jacqui was not satisfied with the trust's claims that the plans were backed up by clinical evidence.

``She is also going to demand to see this evidence."