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Shropshire Star comment: Counting the cost of Future Fit

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

The region’s flagship health reforms are likely to cost more than anyone ever thought.

Future Fit may run into financial challenges as targets set at the start of the process slip from view. As surprises go, it’s a bit like finding out Christmas Day follows Christmas Eve.

The whole Future Fit exercise has been the acme of a poorly administered public sector project. Mired in confusion and delay, beset by political wrangling and difficulty, it has fallen at every hurdle. The consequences of the project have been far-reaching. It has become difficult for local health services to attract and retain new staff of the calibre required as potential recruits have steered clear.

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To be fair-minded to those behind Future Fit, it is not surprising that the budgets are unlikely to be met. One only has to look at HS2 or various road schemes across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin to know how common it is for over-spends to arise. That is not to excuse them, of course. Were the private sector to operate in the same way as the public sector, heads would roll.

What is important when assessing the present position of Future Fit is not what has gone before – for it has been a rum do – it is what happens next.

The longer the project rattles on, the greater the cost will be and the more severe the over-spend will become. There will be further reputational damage to local health services and public trust in officials’ ability to deliver services will be further eroded.

Future Fit has become Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin’s own, mini version of Brexit, where decisions are never made, where divisions grow, where consensus is never found and where the public are left to pay. And so an end to the Future Fit saga must be sought.

The scheme is presently under review by the Health Secretary and he must be clear on this point: the longer it rattles on, the worse things get.

Whichever conclusion is reached – whether the project goes ahead, is scraped or is amended – we must get on with it. At present, there seem to be no solutions and the failure to deliver simply compounds the problems. Pretty soon, we might find ourselves in a position where there is no solution and the costs are unsustainable.

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