Shropshire A&E unit delay 'could water service down', health watchdog warns

Delaying a decision on the future of A&E in the county could lead to a "watered down" service in years to come, a health watchdog has warned.

Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, left, and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital
Princess Royal Hospital, Telford, left, and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

Officials at Healthwatch Shropshire fear the "clinical vision" for key services such as A&E and obstetrics could be compromised.

Carole Hall, the group's chairwoman, said she was "disappointed" that an announcement on the preferred option by the Future Fit board was delayed last week.

But she said the watchdog recognised that it has "taken courage to decide to stop to take stock" and welcomed news that work would continue on the project to reorganise the county's health services.

The decision on a preferred option for key services such as A&E was put back by the Future Fit board on Thursday because, they said, none of the options on the table adequately tackled the growing £23 million deficit of Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH).

Options put forward included siting accident and emergency provision at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital, or building it on a new site somewhere between the two current hospitals.

The future of the county's £28 million women and children's unit, which only opened at the Princess Royal Hospital a year ago, also remains unclear.

It was suggested that it could be moved as part of the NHS health service overhaul.

Ms Hall said: "Healthwatch Shropshire is disappointed that NHS Future Fit bosses have failed to produce a preferred option for a single emergency centre unit in the county following two years' work."

"However, we recognise that it has taken courage to decide to stop to take stock and address the growing financial deficit across all health care services in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin."

Ms Hall added: "We are pleased that NHS Future Fit is continuing, despite the delay, as we consider that the clinical vision developed by clinicians provides the best possible solution for clinical services for the local population.

"At the same time, we have serious concerns that last Thursday's decision could result in a watered down version of the clinical model."

She said: "Despite our concerns, we are pleased that the extended timetable provides an opportunity to look at the local health system as a whole and gives community-fit, local planned care provision, and rural urgent care centre work a chance to catch up.

"It will also allow time for proper dialogue with local communities.

"In the meantime, Healthwatch Shropshire will continue to raise awareness of the complexities of modern healthcare and the implications of any changes and ensure that health bosses have a good understanding of the special health needs and characteristics of the Shropshire population."

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