An open letter to Dr Helen Herrity, Chair of Shropshire CCG and Dr Michael Innes, Chair of Telford and Wrekin CCG
Dear Dr Herritty and Dr Innes
We are writing this open letter on behalf of the Shropshire Defend Our NHS campaign.
On the question of two A&E departments in Shropshire, we know we disagree. We believe that there is a need for two centres to cover this large geographical area; you believe that only one is needed. That is not the focus of this letter.
The national review of urgent and emergency care makes a distinction between ‘Emergency Centres’ and ‘Major Emergency Centres’. These – like Urgent Care Centres – will not be commissioned by local CCGs, but by much more remote bodies called Strategic Urgent Care Networks1. Each of these will cover ‘a wide geographical area’, according to initial information from NHS England. We regret that these crucial decisions on urgent and emergency care will no longer be made locally, and we believe that this sharply reduces accountability to NHS users. We are of course aware of the planned changes to urgent and emergency care nationally: that many of the patients currently seen at A&E departments will visit Urgent Care Centres instead, while the two different levels of Emergency Centres will see the most seriously ill people, those with potentially life threatening conditions2.
From information given by Caron Morton to the Future Fit meeting in Welshpool on 9th June, we understand that there will not be a Major Emergency Centre in Shropshire. Caron indicated to the meeting that the Major Emergency Centre would be at the North Staffordshire Hospital at Stoke-on-Trent. This has been confirmed elsewhere.
NHS bosses in Shropshire have released the first draft of plans for ‘Future Fit’, the reorganisation of local NHS services.
It’s a double whammy for Shropshire patients. Instead of the two A&E departments we have now, there will be only one ‘Emergency Centre’ (the new name for A&E). And instead of the two hospitals we have now, there will almost certainly only be one, alongside the A&E1. That means that critically ill patients have longer ambulance journeys, with all the risks this carries.
It gets even worse than that. Our Emergency Centre in Shropshire will just be a very basic one, that tries to stabilise patients and start treatment. Patients who need any kind of specialist care – including people who have had strokes or heart attacks – will be transferred on to a Major Emergency Centre. The Major Emergency Centre will be at the North Staffordshire Hospital at Stoke-on-Trent2,3.
Gill George, speaking for Shropshire Defend Our NHS, said, ‘This is really bad news for Shropshire people, and for the Welsh residents who depend on the Royal Shrewsbury. Our two A&Es get rolled into one, and then on top of that, it gets downgraded! For a lot of people we’ll be looking at journey times of three hours or more before they get the specialist treatment they need. Centralising specialist care isn’t so bad in cities, but it needs re-thinking for our rural area. You can have the best healthcare in the world, but it’s of no use to you if you’re dead by the time you get there’.
- Futurefit Clinical Design Workstream, Final Report May 2014, Models of Care
- The status of the Shropshire Emergency Centre and North Staffordshire Hospital as our ‘link’ Major Emergency Centre was reported verbally by Shropshire CCG Accountable Officer Caron Morton at a Future Fit engagement meeting on 9th June and confirmed verbally at the Board meeting of Telford and Wrekin CCG on 10th June.
- Transforming urgent and emergency care services in England – Urgent and Emergency Care Review End of Phase 1 Report, November 2013. This national document outlines the relative status of Emergency Centres and Major Emergency Centres (e.g. in the diagram on page 23), and elsewhere in the text).
The Future Fit Clinical Design document and the Urgent and Emergency Care Review are linked.