For once I find myself in agreement with Lucy MP, MP for Telford and Wrekin, when she told BBC Radio Shropshire this evening that the Future Fit programme has been an “extraordinary saga.” The latest twist in this tortuous process is a leaked report on the first stage decision on the closure of one of our county’s A&Es.
BBC Radio Shropshire and the Shropshire Star reported this morning that Shropshire and Telford Clinical Commissioning Groups favour a single A&E at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. The Women and Children’s Centre at the Princes Royal Hospital will move back to Shrewsbury. This department opened just two years ago at a cost of £28 million. Planned treatment and surgery will be carried out at Telford.
Tracey Huffer, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow East and a practising nurse, made a statement this morning:
“This is a really mixed bag of proposals.
“The best option would have been to retain both A&Es. If there is to be only one, an A&E in Shrewsbury best suits the needs of people who live here in the rural southwest of the county and in Powys.
“The decision recognises the need of rural areas. But it leaves emergency services in the Telford and Wrekin and Bridgnorth areas in something of a limbo. There are suggestions that New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton will be upgraded to an A&E. That will help. We need our Clinical Commissioning Groups to work closely with the Wolverhampton CCG to ensure that residents in the east of the county are not disadvantaged.
“Most planned surgery and treatment will, if these plans are implemented, take place in Telford. There is no practical public transport between Ludlow and the Princes Royal Hospital. The eligibility criteria are now so strict that few people can travel by non-emergency ambulances. Community transport run by volunteers is limited. If routine treatment is to be moved to Telford, we must set up a direct public transport link between the southwest of the county and the Princes Royal Hospital.
“I am troubled that we had to hear this news through a leak, not directly from the CCG. We need the fullest consultation on these changes. They have huge implications for the future health and wellbeing of people across Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin.”
Telford and Wrekin Council’s leader Shaun Davies is furious at the decision. He is already threatening a judicial review if the plans to close the A&E at the Princes Royal Hospital are confirmed. Shropshire Council, which has repeatedly refused to take a view on the location of a single A&E, has not made a statement.
Future Fit said today:
The outcome of the non-financial option appraisal which has taken place does not constitute a decision. The next steps are that the outcome of the non-financial appraisal and financial appraisal will go to the NHS Future Fit Programme Board in October, who will then make a recommendation to the Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin CCGs.
The NHS Future Fit programme still has a long way to go before a final decision is made. This includes a full Public Consultation that will run for a minimum of 12 weeks.
Health Minister Philip Dunne and Defend Our NHS leader Gill George will be on the panel at our public meeting on the NHS and local services. That’s this Thursday at 7pm at Ludlow School.