NHS in Shropshire special report: A&E units must go, says Future Fit boss

Hospitals in Shropshire have just a quarter of the emergency consultants they need, it was revealed today.

NHS in Shropshire special report: A&E units must go, says Future Fit boss

Official guidance says A&E departments in Shrewsbury and Telford should have about 20 emergency consultants.

But Telford's Princess Royal Hospital and Shrewsbury Royal Hospital currently only have just five and a half specialists in the role.

The shortage was today revealed as the argument continued to rage over the future of A&E services in the county.

David Evans spoke as the Shropshire Star launches a week-long series on the county's NHS.

Mr Evans is leading the Future Fit review, which will almost certainly lead to the closure of one of the county's two A&E departments, to be replaced instead by an urgent care centre.

The review has been stalled with no decision until next summer.

But Mr Evans, chief officer of Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said staffing issues showed the need for change.

He said Shropshire's hospitals simply could not recruit the expertise needed for two A&E departments, warning: "It is currently one organisation across two sites.

"If you look at the guidance from the College of Emergency Medicine – and I accept this is guidance – they would normally recommend 10 consultants to run an emergency department.

"If you looked at two sites that would be 20 – and currently Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust has around about five and a half. Clearly there is a big issue there around the number of consultants. And if you had 20 consultants working across two sites, the population we have isn't in reality big enough to support that.

"Trying to maintain the skills of those consultants is really difficult.

"Consolidating some emergency care into one site while retaining a significant proportion of urgent care over at the other site is the right way to go because it does enable us to concentrate the skilled expertise where you have the sickest patients."

Future Fit began in 2012 after NHS England set out a 'call to action' to staff, public and politicians to help the NHS meet future demand and tackle funding gaps through 'honest and realistic' debate.

It has been delayed because none of the options on the table adequately tackle the growing £23 million deficit of the hospital trust.

Options put forward included siting A&E just at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or just at the Princess Royal Hospital.

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

Future Fit leaders initially wanted a preferred option before the General Election in May.

It was put back – and health chiefs said it was looking like "late summer or early autumn" before the preferred site was announced.

Now health bosses say a preferred option should be announced in summer next year.

The team is now working on financial plans to address finances in the health economy.

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