'Time for Government to end the silence' over legal challenge to Telford hospital A&E 'downgrade'
A council leader is urging the Government to end a "six-month" silence on a hospital review that would see emergency services downgraded at Telford's Princess Royal Hospital.
Telford & Wrekin Council made a formal legal request in March for the health secretary to reconsider the 'Future Fit' plans that will see Telford lose its 24-hour A&E and the consultant-led Women and Children’s Unit moved to Shrewsbury.
The council followed this up with a letter in July but says it is still waiting for a response.
The initial request was made by the council’s legal advisors following a full council meeting in March, where a motion re-stating the council’s opposition to the plans and the need for them to be reviewed by the Government received unanimous support from elected members.
The council says Steve Barclay, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has the power to reconsider the decision made by former Health Secretary Matt Hancock in October 2019 to go ahead with plans.
It says Telford is set to become the largest town in England without a full A&E service, despite having one of the fastest growing and ageing populations in the country.
Councillor Davies said: “In light of the latest data around population growth and health inequalities, released just last year, we’ve asked the Health Secretary to use his legal right to review Future Fit plans.
“So far, it seems the approach has been to try to ignore this request and hope it will go away. Six months is ample opportunity to consider the issue and at the very least, acknowledge our request. The silence is deafening."
The council’s legal advisors set out how the original business case supporting Future Fit plans - made in 2018 - is based on data that is now at least eight years out of date and is no longer supported by the latest census data.
They also set out how Telford and Wrekin has:
A faster growing ageing population than Shropshire
A growing number of women and children within the borough
A disproportionately higher number of residents without access to a private motor vehicle than in Shropshire, creating significant challenges for those needing to travel more than 20 miles to access hospital care and treatment
Greater health inequalities than in Shropshire
Concerns were also raised about the lack of transparency and clarity over what residents in Telford & Wrekin can expect from the Princess Royal Hospital if the proposals go ahead.
Councillor Davies continued: “As a community, we’ve been told that emergency care will be provided from the Royal Shrewsbury and that the Princess Royal will become a centre for planned care.
“What’s now emerging is that planned cancer care and planned care for children will also be moved to Shrewsbury.
“The Princess Royal is being stripped by stealth of the services that people need. No emergency care and now limited planned care.
“Making it more difficult for people to access health care, and to support their loved ones when they are seriously ill, only stands to widen the gap between those in good and poor health.
“Time is running out for the Health Secretary to do the right thing for people in this borough. I urge him to take action before it’s too late.”
The Department for Health & Social Care and the Shrewsbury & Telford Hospitals NHS Trust have been contacted for comment.