Shropshire Star

MP asks parliamentary watchdog to investigate Future Fit delays

A Shropshire MP is calling for the parliamentary spending watchdog to investigate the cost of delays to the controversial shake-up of hospital services in the county.

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Princess Royal Hospital in Telford

Daniel Kawczynski said he would be writing to Meg Hillier, chairman of the public accounts committee, urging her to look into the cost to the taxpayer of the protracted disputes about the Future Fit programme to reorganise the county's hospitals.

Mr Kawczynski said that while the Government had agreed to make £312 million available to cover the cost of the scheme, delays caused by a row over where accident emergency services should be concentrated had led to the cost escalating to £500 million.

But Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, responded by calling for Future Fit to be reviewed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the moment, both Royal Shrewsbury and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital have 24-hour A & E units, but the Future Fit plan proposes that these should be replaced by a larger A & E centre at Shrewsbury. Princess Royal Hospital would then be redeveloped as a centre for planned care, although it would still retain a part-time 'A & E local' service.

The plans have been met with fierce opposition from Telford & Wrekin Council and other campaign groups which want to see the borough retain round-the-clock emergency service.

They were formally given the go-ahead by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in October last year.

But Mr Kawczynski said delays to the scheme, which was first mooted in 2014, were costing the taxpayers millions and putting lives in danger.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock

He said: "Doctors are telling us that if these changes are not delivered, lives will be put at risk. I understand that in a democracy there has to be public consultation where interested parties, including Telford Council, have the right to make their views known.

"But when doctors have repeatedly said lives will be put at risk unless these changes are made, these stalling tactics are not acceptable.

"We have secured the £312 million for the scheme to go ahead, but because of these delays we are now being told that it is going to cost over £500 million, and there is still no date about when this is going to be concluded.

Daniel Kawczynski MP, left, and Councillor Shaun Davies

"I don't want any other county in the UK to have to go through the trauma we have been through, my great concern is what is happening to taxpayers' money. I am particularly concerned about the conduct of Telford Council, it looks like the their conduct has potentially wasted over £200 million of taxpayers' money."

But Councillor Davies said: “The MP for Shrewsbury continues to campaign for the downgrading of our A & E here in Telford, and close the women-and-children unit.

"A post-Covid world requires the whole scheme to be looked at again.

“I remind Mr Kawczynski that the Government is in charge of implementing this process, the cost of which had risen to more than £500million before this council intervened by calling for an independent review.”