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NHS facing 'huge challenge' restoring services in Shropshire

By Lisa O'Brien | North Shropshire | Coronavirus | Published:

Restoring healthcare services while planning for winter and a potential second wave of Covid-19 will be 'incredibly challenging' in Shropshire, health bosses say.

But the region's health scrutiny committee has been told that efforts are being made to secure additional support.

It comes as NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens and chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard has written to all NHS trusts and health providers outlining priorities for the rest of the year.

It focuses on plans to restore cancer and GP services, expand and improve mental health services and make preparations for winter whilst also preparing for localised Covid outbreaks or a wider national wave.

It also sets targets to recover the maximum elective activity possible between now and winter.

The issue was raised at a virtual meeting of Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council's joint health overview and scrutiny committee, with committee member Dag Saunders saying the targets could pose a "massive challenge".

In response, Nigel Lee, chief operating officer at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), said: "A number of services and certainly most in the acute sector have been fundamentally changed by a post-Covid era.

"It will be a significant challenge to get to that 90/100 per cent of pre-Covid.

"System leaders have been working hard with NHS Improvement and others about how we access additional capital, additional support and also work across not only our system, but also with people in the region."

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When questioned about what will happen if the targets are not met, David Evans, joint accountable officer for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: "This is an incredibly challenging time to be trying to restore services fully at the same time we've got winter coming.

"We are really committed to delivering this target.

"We don't know what will happen if we don't although I'm sure we will be under increased scrutiny from regulators in terms of NHS E/I.

"This is about the system delivering the target.

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"We will be continuing to use the Nuffield as part of our solution to deliver the whole of the elective agenda."

Steve Trenchard, interim director for transformation for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin CCGs, told the meeting there are 'basic elements' of a winter plan.

He said: "We are going to be the second pilot in the Midlands to the roll out of a new initiative where people will be encouraged to talk before they walk into ED (emergency department) to make better use of NHS 111.

"One of the key things is to have a strong suite of community services that manages demand better at the front door.

"We can't pretend we have a system that is going to go back to where it was pre-Covid because it can't. In order to comply with our infection control guidelines we have lost beds, our processes are slower and our estate is very challenged.

"We know these are some of the elements we have to manage and we're grappling with."

Mr Evans said beds at SaTH, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital, had reduced by 75 because of social distancing and productivity has been affected.

A funding bid has been made to NHS bosses to erect modular buildings to be used as extra ward and theatre space.

Councillor Karen Calder, co-chair of the committee, said there was the potential for the situation to turn from 'crisis' to 'chronic' but it would have to be dealt with as things progress.

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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