Fears over 'major threats' to future of Shropshire's community hospitals

Concerns have been raised over the future of community hospitals in Shropshire with urgent communication needed.

Ludlow Community Hospital
Ludlow Community Hospital

The issue was addressed at a meeting of Shropshire Council’s scrutiny committee.

It comes after an announcement was made in October that the former maternity unit in Ludlow had been sold, subject to contract.

Now, fears have been raised over rural community hospitals and the impact that closure would have on access to healthcare services county-wide.

Shropshire councillors Tracey Huffer and Heather Kidd, are calling for more information and early discussions about changes for the community hospitals.

Speaking at the scrutiny meeting, Councillor Heather Kidd said: “We have staff sitting having cups of coffee in Ludlow Hospital and having their coffee with NHS England who are measuring up the building and looking at the value of the building for future disposal.

“So I would really like Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust to come and make a presentation to us.”

Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust said: “Our staff are not involved with the decisions regarding the Ludlow Hospital building. We are commissioned by the ICB to provide services within Ludlow hospital alongside a number of other health care providers. We do not own the building and we are not responsible for the decision making regarding the building.

“It affects adult social care and step down beds, it affects very rural areas and the delivery of services to those rural areas, whether its in Whitchurch, Bridgnorth, Ludlow or Bishop’s Castle.

“We do not know what they’re going to do with any of those (hospitals) and we will get to the position where a decision has been made and then they’ll consult and it’s too late.

“So I really want them to come and tell us how they think they’re going to be running any of our hospitals across Shropshire – our community hospitals – and it needs to be done more urgently.”

The potential loss of community hospitals would also have a knock-on impact on Shropshire’s healthcare provision as a whole, putting more pressure on Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital.

“We need the earliest and most thorough consultation on any proposals,” Councillor Kidd said.

“Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital was closed without consultation and the local community was very upset.

“The hospital reopened when ShropCom admitted it had got it wrong – but without the step down beds we need and few services. We don’t want any repeat of problems like that.”

Health campaigner Gill George endorsed Heather’s comments at the meeting and said she had heard of ‘major threats to all of the community hospitals’.

“That is a massive issue for rural Shropshire – North and South – in terms of access to healthcare,” Gill said.

“It’s an issue for the whole of Shropshire in terms of additional pressure on urgent emergency care if those local beds are lost.

“And of course its a big climate issue if people are having to drive from rural Shropshire to Shrewsbury or Telford to access routine care – major, major, major threat.

“Staff are already voting with their feet and looking for other jobs and in some cases getting other jobs because they believe they don’t have a secure future.”

Councillor Huffer added: “The uncertainty of the future of Ludlow Community Hospital is causing upset with staff. ShropCom has been on the site measuring up the estate and openly talking about selling some of the site.

“I am concerned that this will make it more difficult to keep and attract staff to Ludlow. Staff are already stretched, with some covering long shifts. If there are not enough staff to run a facility, it will close.

“That could mean that health services in Ludlow will close at a time when many more homes are being built.

“I also worry that the relationship between local GPs and Ludlow Community Hospital could be lost under the new proposals.

“What can be better if you have a stay in hospital than being treated by your own GP? We need to preserve that relationship.”

Andy Boddington, Shropshire Councillor for Ludlow North said: “There is real danger that community hospitals will become ill-served outposts of the two main hospitals.

“And if they are unable to provide a service, they will close leaving rural dwellers having to travel across the county for basic diagnostics and treatment, and post hospital care.”

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