Both Shropshire's A&E wards will stay open, pledges Jeremy Hunt
Both of Shropshire's accident and emergency departments will remain open, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised.
Mr Hunt said he was "very disappointed" with council leaders "scaremongering" over closure threats to A&E in Telford and Shrewsbury.
He was speaking after Kuldip Sahota, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, said the Government had offered "no reassurances or guarantees on the future of sustainable 24-hour A&E services at the Princess Royal Hospital".
Mr Hunt spoke exclusively to the Shropshire Star during a visit to Aqueduct Surgery in Telford where he praised the practice's specialist mental health services.
He said: "I am very disappointed by the scaremongering by the local council leader about closures to A&E services in Telford and Shrewsbury.
"We commit to A&E on both sites and there are no plans to change that."
He added: "All local political leaders should be responsible in the language they use not to whip up fears of changes when actually all the changes being made are being done to save more lives."
Following the statements, Councillor Sahota said: "I make no apology for fighting for local people's interests and the best interests of the borough.
"If neither A&E is going to shut, as he says, I don't understand why the Health Secretary cannot give us the guarantee that we seek, that a 24/7 full A&E service at the PRH is maintained."
Mr Hunt was visiting Telford on invitation from the town's prospective Conservative MP, Lucy Allan.
She said: "Late last year Dr Caron Morton, of the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, told the Shropshire Star 'nobody is talking about closing anything, not even a department'.
"So it's not up for discussion."
Miss Allan has mounted a campaign to scrap parking charges at the Princess Royal Hospital.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham Daniel Kawczynski is calling for the same at the Royal Shrewsbury.
Mr Hunt said he believed hospital parking fees were a "a matter for each trust to decide".
But he said: "It's very important that trusts recognise that times are very difficult and it's important not to do anything to deter people from visiting their loved ones in hospital because this is a vital part of the healing process."
On the subject of Shropshire's stroke services being temporarily moved to the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, Mr Hunt said: "It's not always the safest thing to try and treat everything in the nearest hospital."
He used the example of patients of serious car crashes in Shropshire being taken directly to the major trauma units in Birmingham or Stoke because of the specialist doctors and facilities. He said: "London is the safest place to have a stroke and that's because they brought the stroke centres down from 32 to eight so stroke doctors who were seeing one to two people a day now see eight to 10 people a day.
"The mortality rates have nearly halved and we need that to happen everywhere including Shropshire.
"We need doctors that are specialists because that's what saves lives." Mr Hunt praised the mental health provision at the Aqueduct Surgery where he and Miss Allan chatted to patients and met staff.
"It's been brilliant," he said.
"Dr Shailendra Allen is an absolutely inspiring GP. He gives his mobile phone number to his patients but he tell me they don't abuse it.
"It gives them greater confidence and security. He's one of few GPs that is a mental health specialist and that's a big area of focus for the NHS going forward."
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