I have chaired health meetings every two months with health providers, local councils and other interested parties, since the campaign to keep open the local Maternity Unit at Gobowen more than ten years ago.
The Oswestry Health Group has helped pull together health provision locally. However it continues to be a concern for local people; I am clear that the current acute arrangements do not serve the people of North Shropshire well as people face a forty minute journey to A&Es in either Shrewsbury or Telford.
We have seen key clinical specialities move to more advanced hospitals in the West Midlands; seriously ill patients have to travel to Stoke for heart and stroke treatment. The two separate A&Es are struggling to recruit enough quality consultants.
My longstanding preferred option for the future is to establish a state of the art Emergency Care Centre covering the whole of Shropshire. This would not just attract top class clinical specialists but would actually bring back skills and services to Shropshire, bringing them closer to local people. Balancing this, I want to see the bulk of care currently undertaken by the two distant A&Es delivered much closer to home in Urgent Care Centres in Oswestry and Whitchurch. At the last three meetings of the Oswestry Health Group there has been unanimous support for this proposal.
In Oswestry we won the case to bring x-ray and plastering services to the town. This has stopped people who have routine fractures from having to travel, in pain, to Wrexham or Shrewsbury. These are the sort of services I would like to see provided by the Urgent Care Centres locally, carrying out the majority of A&E services with only the most serious, life threatening cases travelling to a state of the art hospital outside North Shropshire.
However delays in agreeing a final plan are now causing further problems.
I was first made aware of the problems that Richmond House Surgery was facing in the autumn and after a series of correspondence was assured that if funding did not come through then there would be a contingency plan in place. I was therefore surprised to hear in April that the practice intended to close. I organised a meeting on Friday with local GPs, practice managers and a Director from the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss plans for the future of primary care in Whitchurch. Our first concern must be for the 4,000 patients who rely on what is already an overstretched service. This issue requires long term planning as it will have an impact on people who will move into the area as a result of current and future housebuilding.
There has to be adequate medical care for people in Whitchurch on a permanent basis. I was pleased that short and long term plans have now been prepared. We decided to meet again on 22nd July once finance for these proposals has been agreed.