Future Fit: Has the faith been lost in the process for deciding the future of Shropshire's health services?
After almost four years and countless delays plans for the future of Shropshire’s hospitals have taken a step forward.
But campaigners say they have lost faith in the Future Fit process.
Health bosses have said that now is the time to move forward and that changes to services will protect the hospitals for future generations.
But people in Telford say they feel that the preferred option, put forward by health bosses, is financially motivated. A joint committee has now backed plans to downgrade A&E services in Telford in favour of one emergency and trauma department based in Shrewsbury.
Proposals include a new emergency centre and women and children’s services at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, while elective surgery, orthopaedics and specialist centres would be based in Telford. Proposals will now go out for public consultation as early as next month.
But at the Future Fit meeting held on Thursday a number of concerns were raised.
David Bell, of Healthwatch Telford and Wrekin, said the public had lost faith in the Future Fit system while Telford & Wrekin councillor Arnold England said ‘financial heads had lost out to financial hearts’.
“It would cost £60 million less to site emergency care and women and children’s at the Princess Royal Hospital,” he said.
Though the borough has its concerned, people living in Mid Wales have urged support for the preferred option, saying it is the best option for them, with a Telford emergency centre meaning long journeys for them and people in south Shropshire.
Before the meeting Councillor Joy Jones, from Newtown, said travelling on blue lights from Mid Wales was terrifying not just for those in the ambulance but the relatives following.
She added: “We are a long long way from Telford, we urge you to chose Shrewsbury.”
Members of the Future Fit joint committee said they were planning for the next 25 years when there would be more elderly people and more with chronic illness in the region.
They say putting critical care on one site would help to attract more clinicians to the area.
David Evans of Telford and Wrekin CCG said 85 per cent of those using women’s and children’s services would continue to use the services closest to them.
Following the joint committee meeting, assurance will now be sought from local scrutiny boards and the NHS England assurance processes before the decisions go to public consultation.
Public consultation is due to take place at the end of September or early October.
When a formal public consultation is launched, the CCGs will ask people their views on which hospital they think should become the emergency care site and which should become the planned care site.
The actual Future Fit proposals
Princess Royal Hospital in Telford would become the ‘planned care site’, housing:
- 24-hour Accident and Urgent Care Centre where six out of 10 people, including children, who currently use the existing A&E department would be seen
- A number of mothers and children would still access women and children’s services at the planned care site
- The majority of adult planned inpatient surgery would take place at the site as well as most adult day surgery
- The trust aspires to create centres of excellence in bariatric services and breast services, which would be housed at PRH
- PRH will also benefit from a new cancer unit for patients needing day case treatment such as chemotherapy
Royal Shrewsbury Hospital would become the ‘emergency centre’ housing:
- The new 24-hour single emergency centre, provided to treat the most serious emergencies. The department would be 50 per cent larger than the current smaller A&Es, ‘helping to attract more consultants’ to the hospital
- A state-of-the-art 30-bed intensive therapy unit and high dependency unit would be provided alongside the emergency centre.
- Acute maternity services would be based at the hospital
What the Shropshire public think
Plans to downgrade the provision of emergency centre at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital have been branded a ‘disgrace’ by members of the public.
It comes as it was agreed by health bosses that a public consultation on the future of hospital services would begin later this year.
People will be able to have their say on all viable options for the county’s two acute hospitals, but those behind Future Fit say the preferred option is for Royal Shrewsbury Hospital to become the main home for emergency care in the county, while the PRH will take on planned care.
Specialist services for women and children would also be sited at Shrewsbury under the plan, despite Telford’s £28 million Women and Children’s Centre being built just three years ago as a home for consultant-led care.
Shoppers in Wellington town centre believe the move could result in lives being lost.
Support worker Kathleen Edgerton, aged 55, from Hollinswood, Telford, said she’d struggle to travel to Shrewsbury if services at PRH shut. “I’ve had procedures in the past and have had to travel to Shrewsbury and spent the week there, she said.
“I don’t have family who can drive so to me it makes sense to go to the PRH. I don’t drive myself so if there was an emergency I couldn’t get there.
“I read about the meeting that happened on Thursday night. It’s stressful because the idea for the hospital to open in Telford was because it was easier for everybody else but now people are going to have to travel to Shrewsbury. I don’t know how it’s going to work out.”
The consultation, which will seek the public’s thoughts on the plans, is set to begin next month.
Retired Barry Brown, aged 66, from Donnington, believes it would be a ‘disgrace’ to transfer the A&E services away from Telford.
“People would have to travel right down to Shrewsbury to use A&E. You’ve got to blame the government for this.
“It’s people’s lives you’ve got to think about. Telford isn’t going to cope very well without its own A&E. It’s a disgrace.”
Meanwhile, John Shenton, 78, who is also retired and lives in Wellington, added: “We obviously need the A&E. Who wants to travel to Shrewsbury if you’re half dying?
“From experiences in the past people could lose their lives. In due respect, you’ve got a better chance travelling down the road than going to Shrewsbury.
“It’s atrocious. They don’t know what they’re doing at the moment.
“They’ve spent £28 million on a new centre for children.”
The politicians' views
Telford’s MPs say they will continue to fight for the borough as public consultation is set to take place shortly on the future of hospital services.
Telford MP Lucy Allan says the decision that Royal Shrewsbury Hospital would be the preferred option of the Future Fit board for the county’s main base for emergency services is a “disappointment” to local campaigners”. She said people in Telford deserve local healthcare to meet their needs.
Fellow Tory Mark Pritchard, whose Wrekin constituency takes in the PRH, has already described the plan as “gross folly”. He also criticised plans to downgrade PRH’s £28 million Women and Children’s Centre, which was only built two years ago, and to move those services to RSH.
And the MPs’ comments come as Telford & Wrekin’s Labour-run council continues its opposition to the proposals.
Ms Allan said: “It has been apparent for some time that clinicians consider that Telford is not the best location for this unit; it seems that the grounds for this decision is the geography of the area to be served.
“This has been a disappointment to all local campaigners, although it has appeared an inevitable conclusion from an early stage.
“What matters most to my constituents is that the clinicians’ proposals ensure we had 24 hour walk in A&E and Women and Children’s Services at the Princess Royal.
“This is the number one priority for my constituents.
“People know that they couldn’t make the journey to Shrewsbury or Wolverhampton to access healthcare they need and nor should they: Telford is a dynamic growing town with significant health inequalities and we need and deserve local healthcare to meet these needs.”
Shrewsbury’s MP said that people have been waiting for the opportunity to have their say on what happens to the county’s hospitals under the review.
Daniel Kawczynski, Shrewsbury and Atcham MP, said he was pleased residents will now have the chance to take part in a public consultation on the Future Fit plans.
He said: “Finally we have the opportunity long awaited for the people of Shropshire and amid Wales to have their say on this crucial issue.
“Some have tried to prevent this from happening which is of great regret as those who ultimately use these services need to be consulted and have their opportunity to assess how these clinically driven proposals by local surgeons and doctors could improve the care they and their children receive in coming years.
“I urge the people of Shrewsbury and Atcham to become involved and give Future Fit their considerations.”
Mr Kawczynski previously said mature decisions should be made over coming months over A&E services in Shropshire
He said: “We have to start recognising these changes for what they are, the opportunity for a £300 million investment into our region’s health services. Failure to put our house in order would put that at risk.
“Therefore, mature decisions are needed so that we can find the best route to better health provision for all.”
What the health bosses say
Now is the time to move forward, say health bosses, after it was agreed that public consultation will now go ahead on the future of hospital services.
Leaders agreed unanimously to support moving towards public consultation on all clinically and financially viable options.
This includes a preferred option of basing an emergency care site at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and a planned care site at the Princess Royal Hospital.
David Evans, chief officer for Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group and Simon Freeman accountable officer for Shropshire CCG, said: “The NHS Future Fit clinical model has been designed by local clinicians who back the programme. We know people want us to make decisions that move us towards a public consultation to allow them to have their say. We have done this based on the evidence in front of us, which we have considered objectively in an open and honest way.”
The decision was made by a Joint Committee of NHS Shropshire CCG and NHS Telford & Wrekin CCG. Following the joint committee, meeting assurance will be sought from local scrutiny boards and the NHS England assurance processes before the decisions go to public consultation.
And the move has been supported by bosses at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust, which run both hospitals.
Simon Wright, chief executive of SaTH, said: “It is incredibly important that the public are given an opportunity to shape healthcare in the region for future generations and we welcome this decision and the progress towards public consultation.
“It is no secret that workforce fragility is our biggest risk. Our services remain safe thanks to our wonderful hard-working staff that are prepared to work long hours and arduous on-call rotas, but the situation is not sustainable.
“We need to move forward and make our hospitals more attractive for people to come and work. I believe the new clinical services will do just that, and in turn that will allow us to improve patient care.”
How NHS protesters feel
Gill George, of the Shropshire Defend our NHS, has long campaigned for more funding for both the county’s hospital to see services retained on both sites.
She warns any changes will lead to patient deaths.
After the meeting on Thursday, she said: “That was their preferred option, but not the preferred option from the 100 members of the public who were also in attendance.
“There was very little support for the top table’s option; muted applause for speakers who argued to keep the A&E at Telford and close it at Shrewsbury; and loud applause and cheers for the contributions calling for both A&Es, both hospitals, and for decent community services instead of the current cuts.”
Ms George has led opposition to the proposed Future Fit changes and led a number of protests in Telford.
She has had the support of Telford & Wrekin Council, which warns the consultation on the future of hospital services is nothing more than “lip service”.
The council set up a campaign called PRH4Me to show support for the hospital, which has attracted thousands of signatures. It has also threatened judicial review if the Future Fit board pressed ahead with its preferred option to see the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital become the main base for emergency care in the county.
Now its leader, Councillor Shaun Davies, has dismissed the consultation process.
He believes that any Future Fit public consultation, now expected to begin early October, will not be genuine and if it is to have any credibility, the consultation process must be extended.