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Star comment: Infighting hampering Future Fit

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Mark Pritchard and Daniel Kawczynski have neatly summed up the underlying problem which has hobbled the Future Fit process.

They are both Tory MPs. You would expect them to agree on a lot. But on Future Fit, which will determine the future shape of the NHS in Shropshire, they are at odds.

Mr Pritchard represents The Wrekin, including much of Telford, and embracing the Princess Royal Hospital. Mr Kawczynski represents Shrewsbury, with the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) on his patch.

The proposal on the table is for Shropshire’s sole A&E department to be based at Shrewsbury. That would mean Telford losing full A&E services.

Mr Pritchard says the whole review is fundamentally flawed, and needs to go back to the drawing board.

Mr Kawczynski? Follow the advice of the experts, he says. And that would mean having the county’s sole A&E unit at Shrewsbury – his constituency.

This fighting of own corners is not of course confined to the Shrewsbury and Telford-area MPs. The whole Future Fit process has been dogged by it.

Local democracy, and therefore local leadership, has failed to deliver any clarity, any consensus, or any sense of direction.

No wonder hospitals are struggling to recruit essential staff. Would-be applicants can see this shambles of leadership and can have little confidence in the Future Fit process.

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For the general public, it has dragged on and on. A meeting of health bosses tonight will signal the starting gun for progress, the expectation being that the recommendation will be to close Telford’s A&E and move women’s and children’s services from Telford to the RSH.

As Churchill would have said in the circumstances, this is not the end, nor the beginning of the end. But from experience it might not even be the end of the beginning either.

If, as Mr Pritchard suggests, health bosses and KPMG, which has carried out an independent review, go back to the drawing board, we shall be left with nothing but a new slate. We shall, by definition, be back where we started.

There would be something to commend that if it was to provide the opportunity for new thinking and a new sense of co-operation and purpose – that is an optimistic take, as the signs are that attitudes have become entrenched. Or – a pessimistic take – it would be an opportunity simply to fight well-rehearsed battles all over again.

A pessimistic take would be that it would be an opportunity simply to fight well-rehearsed battles all over again.

Meanwhile time is pressing on and Shropshire is crying out for things to move forward - no easy task when what is “forward” to some people in the county is seen as damaging retrograde steps to other Salopians.

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