Shropshire Star

Bosses defend Future Fit hospitals programme as trust comes fourth from bottom in national ranking

The trust responsible for Shropshire's main hospitals has been named fourth from bottom in a national ranking of trusts on their performance in care for patients.

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SaTH is ranked117th out of 120 trusts in England according to analysis

Making progress on the controversial Future Fit hospital transformation programme is vitally important to solving key issues like long ambulance delays and waiting times for treatment, say the county's health chiefs.

They say they recognise the concerns coming from the community in Telford over the loss of accident and emergency care at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) but that things cannot go on the they way they are.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust is dogged by nationally low rankings on many key issues.

The Telegraph's analysis of the data ranks SaTH as 117 out of 120 in England for its overall performance against key duties of care to its patients. They indicate that the trust is "failing to meet every single one of its targets."

Problems are vast and include nearly 6,500 people waiting to be seen at A&E for more than four hours.

And in ambulance delays the figures show people in life-threatening situations such as choking or cardiac arrest waiting an average of more than eight minutes for an ambulance, and four hours 55 minutes for falls or fractures. Response times are meant to be seven minutes and two hours respectively.

Simon Whitehouse, the chief executive of the Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care System, admitted there are "very genuine challenges" but that he sees "some green shoots" in the way the hospitals are organised.

"If we have a hospital that is full then the ability to our elective care is compromised," he told the press at a briefing on Monday.

At the moment he said the way the acute hospitals deal with both emergency and elective care on two different sites needs to be improved, including in transferring patients into and out of hospital by ambulances.

SaTH and West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) are working together to try to speed up the movement of patients.

This includes the addition of two new ambulance receiving areas in operation at PRH and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH). Also floor capacity at RSH is being expanded to improve access for GP referrals and is expected to be operational in December.

SaTH says it is working closely with local authorities to expedite discharge of medically fit patients. Recent pressures on the system have seen the number of people who are fit for discharge at the two hospitals rising from 70-80 to more than 160.

Nick White, the chief medical officer of the ICS, said the hospital transformation programme, where A&E would be at Shrewsbury and planned care would be at Telford, is a "better way of doing things".

"It is really important to have a set-up where we can maximise what we have got," he said.

He says such a change would help the hospitals to recruit and retain staff, and that Telford would retain a 24-hour A&E local model, an enhanced urgent emergency care service.

Health chiefs say they are planning a series of 'roadshows' to explain the transformation plans and their reasons for wanting change.

Sir Neil McKay, who chairs the integrated care board, said: "New models of providing care are very impressive."

Nick White said the care would be based on "what people actually need" rather than a system based on geography.

He said patients are routinely transferred from hospital to hospital anyway, and they have done that without incident, including moving intensive care patients, and taking crash victims to Stoke and Birmingham.

"I understand people are worried about losing something," he said. "It is a perception of what they need."

The so-called hospital transformation programme has a budget of some £312 million and health leaders say it has been confirmed as not being in the "new hospital" building programme.

Simon Whitehouse said that local politicians have "worked hard" to protect that budget, which is building a business case.

Work has commenced on the next stage of the national approval process, including the development of an Outline Business Case. This is planned to be completed by the end of June 2023.

They say briefing sessions are currently being scheduled with key stakeholders to reinforce the urgent need for these changes to progress.

"We will be inviting staff, patients, families, residents and other stakeholders to get involved and provide feedback on the developing plans," said a SaTH spokesman. "We plan to share the building designs with stakeholders and the pubic as soon as they are available.

"We cannot continue as we are. Without essential changes in the Future Fit reconfiguration, it will become increasingly difficult to deliver the best care and sustain our services."