Last month, the Government and the NHS signed off on the latest stage of the 'Future Fit' proposals for Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and Princess Royal Hospital Telford (PRH) – both managed by Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), by approving the 'Strategic Outline Case (SOC) for the project.
The SOC is a document which includes options for what services will be based at either hospital, and how the reorganisation would be carried out.
The move is seen as a major milestone in the controversial plan, paving the way to prepare an outline, then full business case, for the proposals, which if approved could mean work starting on the much-delayed £312m scheme next year.
The main proposals would see RSH become the base for the county's only 24-hour A&E department – currently both RSH and PRH offer the service.
PRH will have what has been described as an 'A&E Local,' while consultant-led women and children's services move from Telford to Shrewsbury, with the Telford site becoming the centre for planned care.
Until now the details of the SOC have not been public, but SaTH has said they will be available from 11am today.
There had been calls for the document to be put into the public domain to allow people to see the detail of the options that have been agreed.
Approval of the SOC, which was submitted last October, was delayed after it emerged that SaTH had submitted a proposal that would have cost more than the £312m allocated – understood to have been around £500m.
In response the NHS asked SaTH to come back with a proposal that was "compliant" with the £312m awarded for the project.
It is understood the SOC includes several options for the re-organisation.
Louise Barnett, Chief Executive of The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust which runs both acute hospitals, has welcomed the approval of the SOC, and said that progress on the plans is "vital" to improve health for people across Shropshire and Mid Wales.
She said: “The Hospitals Transformation Programme aims to improve both the quality of patient care and the sustainability of the services that we provide to our communities.
“We simply cannot continue with the current service configuration because it will not be able to meet the future needs of our population and gives rise to significant workforce issues.
“Approval of the SOC has enabled us to take a major and exciting step forward and we are already working on the next stage, involving the development of an Outline Business Case which will set out the future plans in more detail.”
Simon Whitehouse, Chief Executive Officer for NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, said: “The Hospitals Transformation Programme is a key part of our overarching plans to transform health and care services across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and mid Wales. We remain committed to achieving the ambitions of the Future Fit consultation so that we can improve quality, safety, experience and outcomes for local people.
“The £10million of funding announced recently to create an elective surgical hub at the Princess Royal Hospital is also fantastic news. This development fully aligns with the Hospitals Transformation Programme.”
SaTH says the forthcoming Outline Business Case will "review each of the options set out in the SOC in more detail".
It added: "There will be opportunities for the local population, staff and stakeholders to get involved in shaping the detailed models of care. This OBC stage is expected to be completed in around 12 months."
A summary of the SOC and a Q&A, along with a full version of the SOC, will be available at shropshiretelfordandwrekin.ics.nhs.uk/hospitals-transformation-programme/