Shropshire Star

Telford A&E road-signs would be removed under hospital plans 'to avoid confusion'

Road signs for A&E at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital would be removed under plans for the reorganisation of the county's hospitals 'to avoid confusion'.

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The A&E at Princess Royal Hospital will be downgraded under plans for the trust.

The Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Shaun Davies, said the NHS had confirmed the detail in a recent meeting.

Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), which manages Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) said 'final decisions are yet to be made' but that it recognises is it "incredibly important" that "appropriate signage is in place".

The trust has also commented on suggestions that there may be an ambulance based at PRH, ready to transfer patients to RSH if needed.

Both issues have arisen out of the 'Future Fit' 'hospitals transformation process' SaTH is currently going through.

Under the plans RSH becomes the base of the county's only 24-hour A&E, while consultant-led women and children's services move from Telford to Shrewsbury.

PRH will see its current A&E downgraded to an A&E local – which is described as a 24-hour enhanced urgent care centre, while the hospital will take over the provision of planned care for the trust.

Both hospitals will also have urgent care centres, and SaTH has stressed that "the majority" currently attending Telford's A&E will still be able to be treated at PRH.

But, the issues over signage show the delicate nature of the changes, and the importance that patients are clear on what services are provided at which location.

Councillor Davies, whose council has been campaigning for the Future Fit plans to be scrapped, said: "At a recent meeting with the NHS, it was confirmed to me that every A&E sign would need to be removed to avoid confusion.”

Commenting on the issue, a spokesman for SaTH said that discussions will take place over what signage will be required if the £312m Future Fit plans go ahead.

He said: "Although final decisions on signage have yet to be made, we will be working with colleagues at NHS England and the relevant statutory authorities, to ensure that all communications and signage necessary to publicise the 24/7 enhanced urgent care services (A&E Local Model) are in place well before the HTP plans are implemented.

"The Hospitals Transformation Programme (HTP) plans for the Princess Royal Hospital site to specialise in planned care and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital site to specialise in emergency care have been well publicised.

"There has also been a significant number of stakeholder engagement events held in relation to the HTP and the Trust has widely publicised the plans through its targeted focus groups, public meetings, public engagement events and its community membership. The Trust recognises that it is incredibly important to ensure that everyone is aware of the services to be provided and that the appropriate signage is in place."

The long-delayed Future Fit plans are currently at their most advanced stage yet with a planning application for construction work at RSH under consideration by Shropshire Council.

A challenge to the plans, from Telford & Wrekin Council, is also being assessed by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, at the government's request, with a response expected next month.

It is a result of the council arguing that the plans are based on outdated census data.

Meanwhile the trust has also confirmed it is working with the NHS to ensure the correct ambulance transfer measures are in place, if the plans go ahead.

It said that staff at PRH would be able to 'stabilise and transfer' seriously ill patients who turn up at the Telford hospital, but it has also pointed out that patients are already transferred from county departments to other hospitals, as and when specialties require.

A spokesman for SaTH said: "The majority of patients currently attending our Emergency Department in Telford will still be able to get the care they need at the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) site.

"The clinical teams at the PRH site will have the ability to stabilise and transfer seriously ill “walk-in” patients.

"If a seriously ill patient attends, they would be quickly assessed and cared for by skilled clinical staff.

"If needed, they would quickly and safely be transferred to the Emergency Department in Shrewsbury or out of the county to an appropriate tertiary centre (e.g., for complex trauma or heart attack) as they are now.

"As part of the plans, we are working with Commissioners and the Ambulance Service to ensure the necessary ambulance transfer arrangements are in place to support our patients."

Councillor Davies said: "At a time when residents are waiting longer than ever before for an ambulance to come to their home it beggars belief that one of the suggestions is a permanent ambulance being based at PRH to convey patients from there to Shrewsbury in the event that a patient - according to the NHS 'makes the wrong choice' and goes to PRH.

"This underlines why it does not make sense for Telford to become the biggest town in the country without a fully functioning A&E."