Shropshire Star

Future Fit: Prime Minister speaks on hospital decision, saying it's one to be made by 'local clinicians'

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was staying out of the Future Fit hospitals debate when he was briefly questioned on local radio.

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Rishi Sunak being quizzed at a meeting in Shropshire during the Conservative Party leadership contest

Mr Sunak referred to a letter sent to the Government over the transformation programme by Telford & Wrekin Council that could see the borough's A&E downgraded.

Questioned by Adam Green on BBC Radio Shropshire on Thursday , Mr Sunak said the "process is ongoing" in responding to the council's letter. He referred to himself as coming from an NHS family.

But he repeatedly said that these types of hospital decisions "are made by clinicians locally" and that these are "ultimately local decisions made by clinicians."

Telford & Wrekin Council's leader says that clinicians are not responsible for making all of these decisions and not all of them are in support of the proposals.

Councillor Shaun Davies said he will be writing to Mr Sunak personally to ask for the Government's response to a letter sent more than six months ago.

Mr Sunak was also asked what he could do to win back voters to the Conservative Party following his party's stunning 2019 by-election defeat in North Shropshire.

Mr Sunak said his government is making progress on its targets to halve inflation and stop the boats.

"I want to change the country for the better," he said.

Mr Sunak referred to recent decisions to put back a ban on petrol and diesel motors and have a "more realistic path" to Net Zero commitments on tackling climate change.

These decisions he said were "bold decisions" and ones for which he was willing to "take flak" as he is "willing to do things differently."

Mr Sunak, who was doing a round of interviews on BBC local radio in advance of the Conservative Party Conference, was also quizzed by "Roz" from Shawbury who asked why rural areas as "last on the list for hospitals and transport".

Mr Sunak said he has "sympathy with Roz" as he lives and represents the rural constituency of Richmond in North Yorkshire.

He said he is aware of the "acute challenges" faced by rural areas and added that the Government is helping people everywhere.

"We are making progress," he said and referred to his "new way to Net Zero" which would save households "thousands of pounds."

Mr Sunak also said rural areas are benefitting from a rollout of broadband and 4G services, which now cover three quarters of households.

"We are making progress," he said.

Councillor Shaun Davies, the leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, said: “Clinicians are not responsible for making all of these decisions and not all of them are in support of the proposals.

“Trust Board papers from 2016 set out in black and white that clinicians felt that keeping the Women & Children’s Unit at the Princess Royal was the only viable option.

"There was also a clear majority in favour of the emergency centre being at the Princess Royal.

“This seems to have been conveniently forgotten and Future Fit plans continue to be pushed through.

“The health secretary has the power to review the decisions being made. Matt Hancock, the health secretary in 2019, used this power and gave the plans the green light.

“The world has changed significantly since then, not least the lasting impact of a pandemic and a cost of living crisis on health inequalities, as well as new census data showing Telford & Wrekin to have one the fasted ageing and growing populations in the country.

"We wrote to the new health Secretary, Steve Barclay, six months ago to ask for Mr Hancock’s decision to be reconsidered and there has not even been the courtesy of a reply.

"I am glad that the Prime Minister is aware of the issue and will be writing to him personally to ask for the government’s response.”