Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) held an online meeting to update the public on its 'Future Fit' Hospitals Transformation Plan (HTP) on Tuesday evening.
The event comes as the process for the much-delayed £312m re-organisation of Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital has reached its furthest stage yet.
During the online meeting current Emergency Medicine consultant at the trust Dr Ed Rysdale, and Nigel Lee, Director of Strategy & Partnerships, were joined by Richard Steyn, co-medical director, in answering questions from the public – and outlining how and why the proposals are vital to the future of care in the county.
The plans centre on making the Shrewsbury site the centre of emergency care in the county, and Telford the focus of planned care.
Both sites will have a number of the same services, such as 24-hour urgent care centre – which would deal with around two-thirds of current A&E cases.
Dr Rysdale said the division of services is key to providing better treatment for patients – as well as attracting and retaining staff.
He told the meeting that the concentration of emergency specialists on one site would mean people getting better treatment more quickly than currently, and that focussing planned care on a separate site would prevent beds getting taken up by emergency patients and leading to the cancellation of planned operations.
The representatives were asked if they had considered building one new major hospital between Telford and Shrewsbury before settling on the current plan.
Dr Rysdale said that the option had been considered – but had been discounted because of cost and the belief that splitting the services was a clinically favourable option.
He said: "Yes, it was considered back when we had the public consultation and the long list and then the short list."
But he added: "The correct decision was we should have the separate hospitals.
"The reasons for that are partly financial, the cost of a new hospital between the sites would be vast, but more important is the clinical argument."
He said the division of specialties would mean planned care would be "unaffected by the peaks and troughs of emergency care".
Mr Lee said both sites would have a wide range of services – ante-natal, post-natal, diagnostics, as well as 24-hour urgent care sites.
He said: "When we look at Covid and the issues Richard reiterated, all that reinforced that it was the correct decision."
He said the decision was backed by best practice across the UK and abroad.
Dr Rysdale added: "It might take slightly longer to get to the site but it will be far faster to get the care you require."
The meeting was told that the aim of the plan is to help recruit and keep specialised staff – such as a specially trained children's emergency medicine consultants, which SaTH currently does not have.
Dr Rysdale and Mr Steyn both said that currently they know of highly trained staff who live in the county but who travel to Wolverhampton or Stoke to work because the set-up at SaTH is not attractive.
Mr Steyn said: "I think it is really sad when you think how great a place Shropshire is to live in that staff are travelling out to work in other hospitals."
Further public meetings on the plans are set to take place over the coming months.