Since 2014 the NHS Future Fit programme, led by local clinical professionals, has been reviewing hospital services. We must respect their judgement.
The most likely proposal to emerge is that the two current A&Es in Shrewsbury and Telford will continue providing 80% of their current services but will be renamed Urgent Care Centres. More will be opened which is great news for North Shropshire as Oswestry and Whitchurch would be ideal.
On top of this a brand new Emergency Care Centre costing £300million will be built ensuring that the most traumatic cases are treated locally and top class clinical specialists are attracted back into the county. Incredibly this investment is being presented by some campaigners as a savage cut.
At a meeting with MPs last week Anthony Marsh, Chief Executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service, assured us that his paramedics are so skilled that he is not concerned about journey times so long as the specialist destination can unload patients rapidly. He made it clear that gearing up the ambulance service will be a key part of the Future Fit programme.
The whole Future Fit process has cost the taxpayer well over £2million and has taken far too long. It is absolutely infuriating that Telford and Wrekin Council have now decided to mount a legal challenge using taxpayers’ money. As I understand it they have been closely involved in the process all along; their challenge is either based on ignorance or a deliberate attempt to mislead the public that the A&E in Telford might close. In fact it will continue to provide 80% of its current services, although renamed an Urgent Care Centre. With hindsight I suspect if the name had not been changed, Telford and Wrekin Council would not have noticed.
Their legal challenge has forced the CCG into imposing a one month pause. This will be a total waste of public money; further delay could jeopardise not just the whole process but force one of the A&Es to be closed temporarily or permanently. This really would put patients at risk. Instead of gearing up in an orderly manner as planned under the Future Fit process, the ambulance service will be confronted with the extra workload for which they are not fully prepared.
The massive £300million investment in a state of the art Emergency Care Centre may now be threatened by the vanity of a small number of Telford politicians. Their deliberate misrepresentation of the Future Fit proposals shows that Telford and Wrekin Council is not fit for purpose. It was a great mistake to break up Shropshire in 1998; it has been a continuous entity since Saxon times. I am quite clear that it would be much better to close down Telford and Wrekin Council, put the significant savings into public services and establish a unitary council working for the good of the whole of Shropshire.