Local health bosses 'over a barrel' with £60m Shrewsbury health hub, claims leader

A councillor believes NHS England has local health bosses "over a barrel" over a £60 million project to move six GP surgeries into a "super hub".

Around 200 people were at St Chad's Church for the meeting
Around 200 people were at St Chad's Church for the meeting

Around 200 people packed into St Chad's Church to grill chiefs over the proposed Shrewsbury Health and Wellbeing Hub on Tuesday evening.

One of the main concerns over the project is the lack of other options on the table, and Gareth Robinson, director of delivery at NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care System (ICS), said that while the ICS is looking at other options, the health hub is the only one which guarantees the Government investment.

After the meeting, Councillor Julian Dean said he believes the NHS can be forced to rethink and agree to other options for the money available.

He said: "The first two GPs put a compelling case for new and better facilities for an ageing and expanding population. But neither gave a glowing welcome to the hub.

"Then, behind the gloss, it becomes clear that local health leaders had very little say, they have to prove they can provide savings and that NHS England have them over a barrel and will only fund one hub centre.

"But, NHS England can be forced to rethink. For the money it should be possible to have a combination of upgrading and new centres whilst keeping services close to people.

"And Shropshire Council can play its part. They built the Tannery, they could develop plans for investing in a set of local centres."

Mr Robinson said a number of options are being considered, including upgrading/expanding current GP surgeries and knocking them down and rebuilding them.

The plans, which would affect 45,000 patients, would involve closing surgeries at their current location and moving them to a new hub. The surgeries affected are Claremont Bank, Marysville, South Hermitage, Marden, The Beeches and Belvidere. They range between 2.6 miles and 0.8 miles from the favoured site, in Oteley Road near Shrewsbury Town FC’s stadium.

Among health chiefs who spoke at the meeting was Bayston Hill GP Ed Jutson, who said there were 20 young GPs in Shropshire who could not find a surgery to work for due to a lack of capacity. He said the hub project would help surgeries take on young doctors and was "an opportunity not to be missed".

Dr Carla Ingram, from Marden Medical Practice in Sutton Farm, said one of the doctors from her surgery left for a career break which would probably become permanent because their workload "no longer felt safe or manageable." She added that patient numbers had gone up to 10,000 from 6,500.

Dr Charlotte Hart, clinical lead for the proposal, said she wanted to make it clear that "this is not a done deal" and it is still "just a proposal". She said she wanted to protect GP provision in the area but "we need to make some changes to do that".

However, members of the public raised concerns about transport, regular access to the same GP and fears over individual surgeries eventually being amalgamated.

Sarcastic laughs rang out as Dr Charlotte Hart, clinical lead for the project, insisted the practices would remain independent and there were no plans to merge them. "There may be laughter and you may not believe it," she said, "but there is no intention to merge the practices."

A meeting is due to take place today between health chiefs, councillors and council officials about options alternative options.

A full consultation is now anticipated for April 2023.

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