Campaign Update

The threats to the local NHS have never been clearer. It’s time for us, as ordinary users of the NHS, to take back control from the bureaucrats who are cutting and privatising vital services.

We’re now working with a legal firm called Leigh Day – the top lawyers in the country when it comes to defending the NHS. They’re helping us protect the A&E at the Royal Shrewsbury
Hospital against cuts and privatisation that are threatened as soon as 1st December (i.e. less than a week away).  In a situation as desperate as this, and when local NHS bosses are acting without public consultation, we felt we had no choice about seeking legal support.

Leigh Day have offered to let us pay whenever we can raise the money – but they can’t work for nothing. We’re a community organisation. We don’t have rich backers. We’re appealing for your help in raising the money we need to keep campaigning. Can you spare £5 or £10? Would it be possible to do a collection in your workplace or community group? Do you belong to a trade union or another organisation that might be able to make a donation? Please help us out if you can.

Cheques should be made payable to ‘Shropshire Defend Our NHS’ c/o 102 Corve St, Shropshire SY8 1EB.

Would you consider writing to your MP and to the newspapers as well? Please see the end of this updatefor more ideas!

So what’s actually happening?

Cuts and Privatisation
The most immediate threats are to Monkmoor Walk-In Centre in Shrewsbury and to the A&E at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. NHS bosses at Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS England want to close down the Walk-In Centre and, in a quick fiddle, use this as an excuse to privatise 65% of our A&E! They hope to push this through on 1st December – a matter of days away, with no formal public consultation at all. We believe this is a huge attack on our local NHS.

It’s just plain wrong to close down the Walk-In Centre. It’s a very valued resource, providing around 34,000 appointments to patients each year. Why close something that works so well?

And the plans for the A&E are downright dangerous. NHS bosses want to set up a new service called an ‘Urgent Care Centre’ that will treat 65% of A&E patients. This won’t be an A&E service led by Emergency Consultants. It’s a much lower level of service, with patients being treated by nurses, with support from a GP. In principle, Urgent Care Centres are a good idea and should be supported – but the national experts at the College of Emergency Medicine say that it’s safe for these services to see 15 to 22% of A&E patients. In Shropshire, that has somehow become 65% – three times the recommended percentage. This means that patients who need an experienced Emergency Care doctor will see a less specialist nurse or GP instead. This is about cutting costs – and it inevitably creates a real risk for patients. It also sets a dangerous precedent by inviting the private sector into a centrally important part of our NHS. We believe this is the first step in closing down Emergency Care at Shrewsbury, and centralising services in Telford.

We talked to the lawyers about what’s happening. Leigh Day tell us that local NHS bosses aren’t allowed to do this. It all gets quite complicated, but the CCG and NHS England are pretending that that the Walk-In Centre at Monkmoor and the Urgent Care Centre at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital are the same service. They claim they can close one and start the other by giving a ‘contract extension’ to a company called Malling Health, the private company that currently runs the Walk-In Centre. This is nonsense. It’s a different service, to different patients, at a different location. This fiddle means that the NHS has been given no chance at all to run the new Urgent Care Centre. The Community NHS Trust – the organisation that runs the Community Hospitals and Minor Injuries Units – has been carved out. So has ShropDoc, the out-of-hours GP service. The work was just handed over to Malling Health, so no one else got the opportunity to bid. Urgent Care Centres are going to be rolled out across Shropshire. We believe they should be part of the NHS – publicly owned and publicly accountable, not hived off to big business.

The lawyers say that NHS bosses are in breach of statutory requirements called the ‘Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition Regulations’. They’ve worked with us to submit a formal complaint to Monitor, the NHS regulator. We’ve asked Monitor to investigate the breach of these binding statutory regulations – and to stop the cuts and privatisation rolling out while they do this. Our objectives are simple and straightforward. We want the Walk-In Centre kept open. We want our A&E at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital to be run for patient need, not for private companies to make profits out of us. Most important of all, we want A&E Departments – in Shrewsbury and Telford – that are safe now and for the future.

Ambulance Services
Ambulance response times in Shropshire are an absolute disgrace. Even the Chief Executive of West Midlands Ambulance Service says there aren’t enough ambulances and there aren’t enough paramedics.

We’ve found out astonishing information from a Freedom of Information request to the ambulance service. We know of Shropshire people waiting more than two hours before they make it to A&E, for the most urgent 999 calls. Around once a week, someone in Shropshire with an ‘immediately life threatening’ condition waits more than 30 minutes for an emergency response. If someone has a cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest, there is a strong risk of brain damage after 5 or 6 minutes, and death is likely after 10 to 12 minutes. When Shropshire people wait more than half an hour for an ambulance (or a Community First Responder, or a lone paramedic in a car), this amounts to a death sentence for some of our friends and neighbours.

The ambulance service wants Shropshire CCG to pay for more ambulances. Shropshire CCG says ‘No’ – and in September, the CCG Board voted to just opt out of the national targets for ambulance response times. One of the targets is that for the most urgent calls, where people are at immediate risk of death, 75% of 999 calls should be responded to within 8 minutes. The target has been around since the 1990s. Remember the response can be an ambulance, or a paramedic in a car, or a trained community volunteer. There has never been an exemption for rural areas, and rightly so. A target of 100% within 8 minutes wouldn’t be realistic, but a target of 75% is. Why should a life be worth less because we live outside big cities? Shropshire is now the only county in England where the national response times are ignored – and yet again, Shropshire’s NHS bosses didn’t consult with us.

We don’t think that Shropshire CCG should be doing this. If Shropshire’s NHS bosses haven’t got enough money for ambulances, they should go back to MPs and to NHS England and ask for extra funding. Local people shouldn’t be left to die unnecessarily. We’ve asked the Care Quality Commission, responsible for the regulation of ambulance services, to rule on whether or not the national targets for ambulances are really national.

The Background Threats to our NHS
NHS bosses in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin still insist that it’s ‘duplication’ to have two hospitals, the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford. They want to close one of the Emergency Departments, and have a single ‘acute’ hospital. They plan to sharply cut the number of hospital beds. Even the single remaining Emergency Department won’t be a ‘major’ one, and it’s very likely that seriously ill children and patients with strokes or heart attacks will be transferred to Stoke. It’s clear now that the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital is being targeted for closure, as it is already being systematically run down. Women’s Services, Children’s Services and Stroke Care have already moved to Telford. Local plans for NHS cuts say that the single Emergency Department must be on the same site as Children’s Services – and those services have just moved to Telford (at a cost of millions, and with the move of 700 staff).

We believe we need BOTH hospitals, and BOTH A&Es. This isn’t about Telford versus Shrewsbury. We have a population of 513,000 people, across the 3346 square miles of Shropshire, Powys, and Telford and Wrekin. One hospital and one A&E, in an area this size, would be an absolute joke.

Things to do

  • We’ve already asked for your money!
  • We’re delighted with the completed petitions being sent back to us. Thanks to everyone who is taking round the petition against A&E closure. Please keep up the good work on this.
  • Can you write to your MP? You can do this easily through this site: https://www.writetothem.com/ . Ask him if he will oppose the cuts and privatisation set to take place at Shrewsbury A&E on 1st December. Ask him if he will defend BOTH our local hospitals going forward. Ask him why the NHS ‘national Tariff’ means that our A&Es are now making a loss every time they treat a patient. And ask him if he will intervene to insist that Shropshire cannot opt out of national ambulance response time targets.
  • You might wish to contact your Councillor too, or consider getting in touch with other Parliamentary candidates. Shropshire Defend Our NHS isn’t a party political organisation – but we do want local politicians to stand up for the NHS. It’s their job to represent us, after all.
  • And if you still have a moment – think about writing a quick letter to your local paper as well. You can usually do this by email these days. It’s a little bit annoying when many of our papers seem to give so little coverage to the NHS. Regular letters will help to convince editors that the NHS matters. The scandal of ambulance response times might be a good place to start.
  • Would you like any more information? Let us know if you would like a copy of our complaint to Monitor about A&E privatisation, or a copy of our submission on the ambulance service. We would also be very happy to arrange a speaker for meetings of any organisation you might be involved with.
  • If you would prefer to be taken off this email list, please accept our apologies and let us know.

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