Government rejects council call to rethink hospital reorganisation plans

The government has rejected the latest plea to reconsider plans for a major overhaul of the county's emergency hospitals.

Councillor Davies presented the letter in person at Number 10 Downing Street
Councillor Davies presented the letter in person at Number 10 Downing Street

Telford & Wrekin Council had written to the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, calling for the Department of Health to oversee a fresh look at the 'Future Fit' proposals for Princess Royal Hospital in Telford (PRH), and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) – both operated by Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH).

The letter came after more than 22,000 people added their names in support of the letter.

The Future Fit plans have been in development for a number of years, and have faced repeated delays since the county was awarded £312m to carry out the work.

They will see major changes to which services are provided at either hospital.

Under the plan RSH becomes the centre for emergency care, while PRH becomes the focus of planned care.

It would see RSH become home to the county's only 24-hour full A&E unit – currently both hospitals have them, but they have faced huge difficulties in meeting waiting targets.

In April it was revealed that the county had the worst performance in the country for the number of people waiting more than 12 hours at A&E.

RSH will also become the centre for consultant-led women and children's services – which are currently based at PRH.

Both hospitals will have urgent care centres, while PRH will also have an 'A&E Local'.

Telford & Wrekin Council says the services are a downgrade for its borough residents, but health bosses have argued they are the only way to tackle increasingly poor performance against targets and will lead to better care and ability to recruit and retain staff.

The letter was hand delivered by the council's Labour leader, Councillor Shaun Davies, earlier this year.

A reply, from Will Quince MP, Minister of State for Health and Secondary Care, has now been received by the council and says the government still backs the plans, and there will be no review.

Mr Quince said: "The then Secretary of State gave his final decision in October 2019 and asked for the reconfiguration to go ahead without further delay. This decision has not changed."

Councillor Davies said the response failed to take into account the views of people living in the borough.

He said: "It’s taken the government over 100 days to tell us that they will continue to ignore the views of Telford and Wrekin’s residents.

“More than 22,000 people urged Steve Barclay MP, the Healthy Secretary, to look again at plans that just don’t make sense for our borough. He’s not even replied in person.”

Councillor Davies said that if the proposals continue Telford will become the biggest town in England without a full A&E service.

He added: "Matt Hancock’s decision may not have changed, but the world around us certainly has.

"His decision did not take into account the impact of a global pandemic, a cost of living crisis or the fact that our population has been confirmed as one of the fastest growing in the country in the latest census data.

"Neither did his decision take account of once in a generation levels of inflation eating away at the £312m budget – a budget which is already far less than the £500m health leaders asked for back in August.

"I will not accept vague assurances that the additional funding needed for these nonsensical plans to go-ahead will be ‘considered’ as part of future planning. Either the money is available or it is not.”

Although the request has been rejected the council is also awaiting a response from the government to a formal legal request for the Health Secretary to use his powers to review the decisions made about PRH.

The plans have reached their furthest stage yet, with SaTH saying it expected to submit its outline business case around Easter – which must then be approved by the government.

Once that is completed a full business case must be agreed before work can start.

The trust has said it is hopeful work can start at the beginning of next year.

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