Future Fit to go ahead as planned despite confusion over Boris Johnson pledge

Plans to downgrade Telford's A&E are still set to go ahead, the Health Secretary has said, after confusion over a pledge the Prime Minister made at the Conservative manifesto launch.

Boris Johnson on stage at the Telford International Centre
Boris Johnson on stage at the Telford International Centre

Matt Hancock confirmed there are no plans to change the Future Fit proposals and save Telford's full-time A&E after the Prime Minister said on stage: "We will certainly make sure that the A&E in Telford is kept open."

Under the Future Fit plans which Mr Hancock gave approval to last month, the full-time A&E at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford will be replaced by an A&E Local which will only be open during "core hours".

Health Secretary Matt Hancock among the cabinet ministers in Telford
Labour protesters gathered at Telford International Centre

Responding to a question from the Shropshire Star at the launch of the Conservative manifesto at the Telford International Centre, Mr Johnson said: "I'm looking at Matt Hancock here because I know that we have kept the A&E open and we will ensure that it is open and I will absolutely insist on that and I know that Matt will be very happy to give you more details afterwards."

It was not initially clear whether the Prime Minister meant the A&E as it currently operates or the A&E local, however Mr Hancock soon confirmed there are no plans to change the Future Fit proposals which will leave Shropshire with one full A&E centre at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

The consultant-led women's and children's services in Telford are also set to close and move to Shrewsbury under Future Fit.

Mr Johnson's response came two weeks after Jeremy Corbyn promised to keep both Shropshire A&E departments open when he visited Telford, specifically rejecting the plans for an A&E Local as "not a proper A&E".

Meanwhile Telford MP Lucy Allan has been crowdfunding to launch a judicial review of the decision to go ahead with Future Fit, saying Telford's health needs are greater than Shrewsbury's.

Reporter Nick Humphreys was in Telford:

Brexit at centre of manifesto

The Prime Minister pledged to "get Brexit done" and re-unite the country as he launched the Tory General Election manifesto in Telford.

He sought to characterise the election contest as a battle between "retrograde destructive socialism" under Labour and "sensible one nation Conservatism" under the Tories.

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard at the International Centre
Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski MP with Ludlow MP Philip Dunne

"In this manifesto there is a vision for the future in which we unite our country," he said.

"It is time to unleash the potential of our country and forge a new Britain."

The manifesto includes:

  • A "triple tax lock" with no increases in income tax, national insurance and VAT for five years

  • An additional 20,000 police officers and 50,000 extra nurses with the return of nurse bursaries, which were scrapped by the Tories in 2016

  • £1 billion of additional funding for social care in every year of the next Parliament

  • A new deal for towns, cutting taxes for small high street retailers and installing more CCTV

  • An Australian-style points based system to control immigration after Britain has left the EU

  • A pledge to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050

  • A £1 billion boost for "wraparound" childcare after school time and during the holidays

  • Maintaining the pensions triple lock, winter fuel payment and the older person's bus pass

  • £2 billion for the "biggest ever" pothole repair programme as part of the national infrastructure strategy

  • Scrapping NHS hospital car parking charges for staff working night shifts, the disabled and the terminally ill and their families.

The manifesto document contained few surprises with most of the main policies trailed in advance.

Mr Johnson poured scorn on Jeremy Corbyn's plans for a second EU referendum in which he would remain neutral.

He said that if he was returned to No 10 he would take Britain out the European Union within a "few weeks".

Telford MP Lucy Allan, centre, with local Conservative chairman Nicola Lowery, right

"Get Brexit done and we can focus our hearts and our minds on the priorities of the British people," he said

"We will invest millions more every week in science, in schools, in apprenticeships and in infrastructure, and control our debt at the same time ."

It was in the Q&A after Mr Johnson's speech that he was asked about the plans to reorganise Shropshire's healthcare and have one A&E centre in the county.

Tory heavyweights in Telford

Ms Allan was among a crowd of Tory supporters who gathered to welcome Mr Johnson, who arrived with cabinet members just after 1pm before taking to the stage an hour later after a speech by party chairman James Cleverly.

But first the Conservative election battle bus had to drive past Labour supporters who turned up with banners and placards to voice their opposition to Mr Johnson.

The Conservatives chose to launch the manifesto in Leave-voting Telford due to it being a key marginal target for Labour.

Telford is one of Labour's main target seats

Ms Allan held onto the seat with a majority of just 720 in 2017, meaning 2019 Labour candidate Katrina Gilman needs a swing of just 0.9 per cent to take the constituency her party held from 1997 until 2015.

Jeremy Corbyn visited the University of Wolverhampton campus in Telford two weeks ago, showing the importance the closest constituency in Shropshire has for both major parties.

Poll puts Tories in lead

The Tories were boosted on Sunday by fresh polling that suggested the PM could be on course for the largest majority seen since the days of Margaret Thatcher.

As reported in the Sunday Times, analysis by Datapraxis suggested the Tories could be set to romp home with a 48-seat majority - the best showing by the party since the 1987 general election.

Mr Johnson with a copy of the Tory manifesto on stage
Conservative MPs arrive in Telford

Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, admitted her party was being squeezed in the polls but said it was Lib Dem candidates who stood the best chance of preventing a blue victory.

Datapraxis' number crunching suggested Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Steve Baker, the leader of the influential European Research Group, and even the PM could be at risk of losing their seat if people opted to vote tactically for the Lib Dems.

Ms Swinson told the BBC: "There is a real opportunity for Liberal Democrats to win seats from the Conservatives and stop Boris Johnson and his bad Brexit deal."

Labour protesters in Telford

The former minister was critical of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's decision to remain neutral in any such final say on Brexit.

But shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Mr Corbyn's position was a sign of "strength and maturity".

Boris Johnson on stage at the Telford International Centre

Labour announced its own fresh pledge on the weekend, vowing to borrow £58bn to compensate Waspi women who have been financially hit by the decision to raise the pension age from 60 to 66.

The commitment had not appeared in its manifesto that was published last week.

Mr McDonnell told Sky News he thought the next government had "a sense of responsibility to redress this injustice".

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