Cardiology hospital shift backed by patients, say health bosses

Patients from Wales support a move to consolidate Shropshire’s cardiology service further away from the border because they recognise it will bring a more efficient service, an NHS trust boss has said.

The cardiology service will move from Royal Shrewsbury Hospital to Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.
The cardiology service will move from Royal Shrewsbury Hospital to Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.

The inpatient service is currently split between the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and Princess Royal Hospital (PRH), but the trust says moving it completely to the Telford site would reduce unnecessary patient waits and transfers.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust Public Participation Director Julia Clarke said the catheter laboratory is already at Telford so it made “absolute sense” to centre the department there.

She said the consultation process included three visits to Wales which found patients there approved because many of them currently spend “five or six” days waiting in Shrewsbury, so moving them straight to Telford in future would save time and worry. The plans will go to the trust’s board for final approval in 2022.

A report for the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee – which includes representatives from the Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin council areas – noted that both the RSH and PRH have cardiology inpatient wards with a combined 45 beds, but the majority of the service is already at Telford.

“On an average, 10 patients per week need to be transferred from RSH for diagnostic/intervention procedures,” it said.

“RSH patients can wait five to six days to be transferred and for some more specialist intervention this can be longer.

“Due to the delays in patients transfers the cath lab is not being used to full capacity.”

It added that the trust’s cardiology department has struggled to recruit clinicians in its current form and the department is now at “minimal staffing levels” where “any episode of sickness is putting the service at risk”.

Ms Clarke told the committee: “One-site working is a norm in the NHS. We are behind the curve in having a split-site arrangement and having to stretch what is already a thin workforce across two sites.

“The public have been hugely supportive. We’ve been out three times to Wales, who are most affected, and they support it because at the moment they are experiencing those waits for a bed at Telford to have their investigation, and worrying because they don’t know what’s wrong.

“I think there’s almost an old-fashioned view about health services being bricks and mortar. They are not; they are people and equipment. It doesn’t matter where they are, it is having them together.

“The public do accept it and are more mature, and Covid may have helped with that.“

The report noted that Future Fit – a county-wide reorganisation, known formally as the ‘Hospital Transformation Programme’, which is currently having its “strategic outline case” examined by NHS England – would see inpatient cardiology centralised at the RSH, but nonetheless recommended the consolidation at PRH as an interim measure to address current service and workforce problems.

“HTP is a long way off, we cannot wait” Ms Clarke said.

“By having it on one site before the transfer, we’ll just be able to ‘lift and shift’ the service as part of HTP. They will already have had that experience of working as a single team on a single site.”

The committee approved the plans.

Co-chairman Derek White said: “It certainly makes sense to me that you maximise the amount of staff at one place at one time. We wish for you to proceed with this, and with haste.”

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