'Misinformation and fake news': Telford MP Lucy Allan demands clarity over Future Fit in Westminster debate
Telford MP Lucy Allan today called for clarity over the Future Fit process, which she said has caused concern, anxiety and anger for the people in the town.
Ms Allan said that the future of Shropshire's NHS services was an important decision, and one that is worth getting right, but that a lack of communication from local NHS bosses had caused a vacuum of "misinformation and fake news".
She was speaking during a debate she had called at Westminster Hall.
"Despite very public and sometimes acrimonious debates in the media, not a single communication has been sent to our constituents explaining to them what the hospital trust is proposing for the future of our hospital," she said.
"By contrast, they have had a barrage of claims directly from our local Telford & Wrekin Council. Every time residents get a council tax bill, every time they get an email, the council claims our A&E and women and children's centre are under threat of closure.
"While the NHS trust says these claims are untrue and wholly misleading, the trust has not publicly contradicted the council. Nor have they told my residents that the information they are receiving is misleading or untrue. My constituents have become uncertain, and they are becoming angry."
Ms Allan said that moving the women and children's unit at Princess Royal Hospital so soon after it was build was "farcical", and that it was a vital resource for the town.
She said: "It is a new town. Many people come to Telford to build a new life, to build their family. This resource is vital to us.
"The concept of moving it elsewhere so soon after it's been brought to Telford is farcical.
"I'm assured by the trust that this is not happening, but we need to get clarity. When people keep telling you something is true, you're going to start believing it.
"Telford is a very rapidly growing new town. We have an expanding population, set in the heart of rural Shropshire. We have significant pockets of deprivation and health inequalities and worse health outcomes and lower incomes than our more affluent neighbours in rural Shropshire."
Ms Allan said that the current decision making process had not worked, and that it had come to a "complete stasis".
"This is a clinically led process by local clinicians who are supposed to come up with a local decision for local people. However, that has not happened.
"I can see no chink of light at the end of the tunnel. It has come to a complete stasis. There is utter paralysis in the decision making process and all the while our Labour council is maying hay with that total vacuum of information. We can't go on saying it's nothing to do with government, that has not worked."
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski said he was concerned that the council was spending taxpayers’ money on a “political campaign”.
But council leader Shaun Davies remained defiant, saying he would “make no apology” for fighting for services in Telford. The Future Fit review of hospital services has recommended turning the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital into the county’s main emergency site, while Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital will become the home of planned care.
Mr Kawczynski said: “Councils have the right to challenge processes. They have the right to do it even though Telford’s leader and his team are bereft of medical credentials.
“We need to look at do they have the right to use taxpayers’ money for political campaigns?
“Is there anything more we can do to tighten up the rules on how councils spend their council tax money?”
Responding to Ms Allan, Jackie Doyle-Price, the Tory MP for Thurrock, said: "The reality is that when we talk about the future of the NHS, people get worried about change. In discussing change, we want to take the community with us. The only way we can do that is by having real dialogue.
"The reality is no decision will be made until the consultation has taken place and those responses have been analysed. The community will have its say before any changes are made.
"It's very clear there are significant challenges that local NHS leaders need to address. These two hospitals are 18 miles apart and in some areas that might not seem far at all, but we're dealing with identities that are very separate. They could be oceans apart. We need to be clear with those communities about why we're bringing forward the conclusions they are.
"There is no money, so things that would be nice to have are not an option at this stage in the economy. Where there's a duplication of services, where we can bring them over and have a better service as a result, we should explore those. It's also up to local clinical leadership to demonstrate that what they're bringing forward will deliver better outcomes for patients. In terms of winning over hearts and minds, people won't get away from the the fact that services are moving away from them automatically."