Keir Starmer pledges Future Fit hospital plan 'review' but stops short of extra funding commitment
Sir Keir Starmer said a future Labour government would review the controversial £312 million shake-up of hospital services in Shropshire, which would see Telford lose its 24-hour A&E department.
But the Labour leader stopped short of committing any extra funding to retain Telford's A&E unit.
Speaking exclusively to the Shropshire Star, Sir Keir said, as a 'first step', a future Labour government would review the Future Fit scheme to see if it was offering value for money to patients.
"If we are fortunate enough to form the next Labour government, we would look again at this project, alongside all other NHS capital projects, to ensure it is working as effectively as possible to deliver for patients – including those in Shropshire and Telford," he said.
At the moment, Shropshire has two 24-hour A&E units in the county, one at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, the other at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.
The Future Fit proposals, which have been backed by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust, would see 'blue light' A&E services focused on the hospital in Shrewsbury, with the Princess Royal reconfigured as a centre specialising in planned care.
But the plans have been met with fierce opposition in Telford, with both the Labour leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Shaun Davies, and Conservative MP for Telford, Lucy Allan, objecting to them.
At the 2019 General Election, Labour – then led by Jeremy Corbyn – pledged to scrap the scheme, although he too stopped short of committing to any additional funding.
Outlining his position, Sir Keir said: "So as a first step, we’d make an assessment of all NHS capital projects to make sure money is getting allocated efficiently, that we are eliminating waste, and that we are prioritising the projects that will get the patients the care they deserve faster."
He said patients in the county were being let down by the present government.
"The stark reality is that NHS waiting lists have trebled since the Conservatives came to power 13 years ago," he said.
"Rishi Sunak’s pledge to cut waiting lists has effectively been abandoned, with the Prime Minister’s choosing to blame NHS staff instead of fixing the problem himself. "An extra million patients are on waiting lists compared to this time last year, forced to put their lives on hold, in pain and discomfort."
Sir Keir said that a future Labour government would cut waiting lists by paying NHS staff to deliver two million extra appointments at evenings and weekends.
This would be paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax break which benefited the wealthiest, he said.
"The longer we give the Conservatives, the longer patients wait. Labour’s plan to cut waiting lists will get the NHS back on its feet."
Earlier this month, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury Daniel Kawczynski wrote an open letter to the Shropshire Star pledging his backing to the Future Fit scheme, saying it was essential to delivering a modern health service in the county.