Shropshire Star

Talking Telford: Fear and loathing over Future Fit abound but hundreds enjoy the best parkrun around

For more than 10 years now, politicians and doctors have been butting heads over wide-ranging proposals to completely change Shropshire people’s access to hospital care, which would include taking away Telford’s 24-hour A&E cover.

Princess Royal Hospital's A&E is due to be downgraded

Shrewsbury would become the site of the county’s one dedicated emergency department, while Telford would be downgraded to an ‘A&E Local’ and instead become the county’s main headquarters for planned care, under the hugely controversial Hospitals Transformation Programme, sometimes known as Future Fit. Plans took a concrete step forward last week after years of talk and number-crunching, with the hospital trust’s Outline Business Case being formally approved.

It coincided with the latest shouting match on the issue between Telford’s Labour council leader and Conservative MPs. Much of the argument centred on the use of the Government’s nebulous phrase ‘A&E Local’ to describe what Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) will have under Future Fit. Councillor Shaun Davies was seemingly vindicated last week when independent experts said the phrase should be dropped because implying the unit at PRH meets the level of A&E care could “risk patient understanding and safety”.

Telford’s MP Lucy Allan then accused him of “grandstanding” and pointed out that the Future Fit proposals are backed by senior clinicians. MP for the Wrekin Mark Pritchard also piled in, accusing Mr Davies of “relentless scaremongering”. Frankly, there’s plenty to be concerned about - more than four years since an ‘A&E Local’ was floated we still don’t know much about it, other than that it won’t match up to an ‘A&E Proper’. I’ll gladly defer to the clinicians’ expertise on how Shropshire’s hospitals should be transformed - I’d just like to know a little more about what kind of hospital Telford will have on the other side of it.

At least there are signs people in Telford are taking steps to get ‘Future Fit’ themselves - Telford Town Park’s first two parkruns of 2024 have both reported very impressive turnouts. 519 people ran or walked the 5k route bright and early on New Year’s Day, then 683 did the same on the first Saturday morning of the year - that’s the third-highest number of finishers in Telford parkrun’s near 11-year history, and the highest since the coronavirus pandemic.

Call it the New Year’s Resolution factor, or the fact that nearby Shrewsbury’s parkrun was called off because of floods - but you can’t argue with the numbers. Here’s hoping those resolutions last and it augurs another successful year for the best parkrun in the country.