Shropshire Star

Independent panel to consider Telford council's concerns over Future Fit hospital plans

An independent government panel has been asked to look at Telford & Wrekin Council's concerns over plans for Shropshire's 'Future Fit' hospitals reorganisation.

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Councillor Shaun Davies

Lord Markham, an under-secretary at The Department of Health and Social Care, has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to consider the council's worries about the plans.

The £312 million proposal, from Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust, would lead to major changes in the way both Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) operate.

The proposals will see 24-hour A&E cover move to RSH, along with consultant-led women and children's services. PRH would have an 'A&E Local'.

The council had asked the Government to reconsider, arguing the proposal would leave Telford as the largest town in England without a full A&E.

Its request highlighted a number of reasons, including census information which shows the borough has a faster growing ageing population than Shropshire, and a growing number of women and children.

It added that it has greater health inequalities than Shropshire, and a disproportionately higher number of residents without access to a car – potentially creating difficulties in travelling to Shrewsbury.

The council said it has made a series of requests for a review – the first of which was in March this year.

The Labour leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Shaun Davies, said: “We’ve been waiting for six months for a response to our request for a review of Future Fit plans, so confirmation that the under-secretary is seeking advice from the Independent Review Panel is a positive, if long awaited step.

“My plea to them is to carefully consider the facts.

“Telford and Wrekin has one of the fastest growing and ageing populations in the country, yet Telford stands to become the largest town in England without access to a full A&E service.

“Those without access to their own car or van, face marathon journeys of up to four hours each way to reach the hospital in Shrewsbury by bus.

“All of this stands to widen the gap between people who have good health and those who don’t. Our residents rely on local services. They deserve better.”

Councillor Davies said they were also concerned about the lack of transparency over what residents in Telford and Wrekin can expect from the Princess Royal Hospital if the proposals go ahead.

He said: “We’re still to hear what an A&E Local is in practice. No-one seems able to explain this.

“We’re also discovering – bit by bit – that elements of planned care will also be moved to Shrewsbury. Planned cancer care. Planned care for children.

“Transformation plans submitted by health leaders in August 2022 were costed at around £500 million. When there’s £312 million available – what other services are we going to see moved away from Telford or scaled back?

“This decision will ultimately land back on the desk of the Health Secretary. We are urging him to overturn the decision made by Matt Hancock MP to give these plans the green light, come clean on proposals to downgrade our services and to listen to our residents.”

The council said the Independent Reconfiguration Panel has been asked to respond to the under-secretary by no later than November 17, and to provide an alternative timetable if this is not achievable.

A spokesperson for the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said: “Significant progress is being made towards our vision to deliver two thriving hospitals and better care for everyone through our Hospitals Transformation Programme.

"We welcomed the announcement last week from the Minister of State for Health and Secondary Care confirming the release of funding to support the enabling works for our vital Hospitals Transformation Programme (HTP), and the enabling works will start next month.

"We are working hard to progress our much-needed clinically led plans to improve care for our communities across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, and mid-Wales. We will be cooperating fully with any requests for information by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

“We will continue to keep local communities informed and involved at every step of our journey.”