Boris Johnson’s speech to Conservative Party Conference this week promised "We are the party of the NHS".
Hours later, Secretary of State Matt Hancock announced the closure of the A&E at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.
Matt Hancock must know of the overwhelming public opposition to Future Fit. It is extraordinary to see these plans given the green light. Future Fit is a cuts and closures plan. Matt Hancock’s decision means worse care for all of us in Telford & Wrekin and in Shropshire.
For Telford people, Future Fit means the loss of the Womens and Childrens Centre and the A&E.
Unsurprisingly, there is overwhelming opposition in Telford to the loss of local children’s care. And A&E closure? We know that longer journeys to A&E are associated with higher death rates. The evidence, both from the UK and internationally, shows this clearly. Future Fit will cost lives.
For Shropshire people, Future Fit means much worse access to routine planned care, with unnecessary journeys to Telford. Shropshire is a predominantly rural county, with a poor road network and public transport that’s close to non-existent in many areas.
This means people will miss appointments for the simple reason they can’t physically get there or can’t afford to get there.
People in Powys will be affected by those same pressures.
Future Fit is also about staff cuts and bed cuts. It means 141 fewer nurses; 67 fewer therapists; fewer junior and middle grade doctors. That’s the reality behind the rhetoric and spin. It also means even more pressure on beds – an increased shortfall of 110 beds when the bed shortage is already desperately obvious.
'Outdated and irrational'
Matt Hancock’s letter to Councillor Shaun Davies uses a fancy new name for an Urgent Care Centre. He calls it ‘A&E Local’. If it isn’t run by Emergency Medicine Consultants, based in an acute hospital, able to admit patients directly to specialist acute care beds, then it isn’t an A&E.
Back in January, Health Service Journal asked NHS England if they could define ‘A&E Local’ – and they couldn’t. Changing the language cannot take away the reality: Future Fit means closing the A&E at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.
We’ll probably hear a lot about the £312m ‘investment’ in local healthcare. No. The £312m is just for new hospital buildings. It’s not a gift or award; it comes with strings. It has to be paid for by the hospital trust in year on year costs. It’s set to cost at least £11m a year, and that means £11m less for patient care.
In Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, the pressure on our A&Es, on ambulances, and on emergency hospital beds is relentlessly rising. It’s a national trend – but really marked in our area. This is why services are crumbling; why our A&Es can’t cope now; why patients are left lying on trolleys for hours because there aren’t enough hospital beds.
Taking out staff and beds, as Future Fit will do, is set to make things far, far worse. And spending £11m or more every single year on paying for those new hospital buildings will mean even more cuts.
Future Fit is an outdated and irrational approach to healthcare.It is an absolute catastrophe for local people if Future Fit goes ahead.
The challenge to Future Fit has to continue,alongside a commitment to challenge every cut and fight for every service.
There also has to be a political dimension to this. Councillors and MPs in our area know fine well that our local NHS is disastrously underfunded. They know too that Future Fit is about worse healthcare for local people.
Let’s see them call this out; let’s see them condemn Future Fit for the disastrous cuts package it is.