The latest announcement from local NHS bosses confirms that they will try to close one of our A&Es and hospitals in Shropshire, and that they will try to push this through quickly. It’s time for us to get organised!
Can you come to the Shropshire-wide planning meeting for supporters of Shropshire Defend Our NHS? We have a campaign to build!
2.00 pm to 4.00 pm, Saturday 13th June
Lecture Hall, United Reform Church
Coleham Head, Shrewsbury SY3 7BJ
(near the English Bridge)
After the election, what’s happening in Shropshire?
We were expecting a decision to be taken on 12th June that would determine the fate of our local hospitals: the Royal Shrewsbury and the Princess Royal, Telford. The crucial meeting has been postponed by NHS bosses. They say they’re waiting for ‘new priorities and possible funding plans’ from the new government. Is this delay good news for Shropshire’s NHS?
The public statement put out by NHS bosses confirms that they intend to close one of our A&Es, and most of the beds and services that operate from that same hospital. Shockingly, they then go on to say that a single emergency centre (A&E and hospital) ‘needs to be in place as soon as possible’. All sorts of things can be put on hold – but the drive to close down our A&E and hospital is apparently relentless.
There’s a level of complexity about what’s happening. The original promises about changes to the NHS in Shropshire included ‘integrated care’ and ‘care closer to home’. There was always the desperately worrying strand of work to close down one of our two A&Es and hospitals, but there were some genuinely good ideas as well. Work streams were meant to take place alongside the hospital closure plans that would look at ‘planned care’ and care for people with ‘long term conditions’.
None of this work has actually happened – and it increasingly looks like it won’t happen in any meaningful form. The driver for change is to cut costs. The hospital trust predicts an £18 million deficit this year, and its recovery plan is to make cost savings of £12 million a year. That’s why they are so desperate to close down an A&E and hospital. Shrewsbury Hospital is in the firing line, but Telford’s Princess Royal faces likely cuts as well (and the pressure on the remaining A&E and the reduced number of hospital beds will be enormous).
Is it possible that brilliant community based services can be created in Shropshire, as an alternative to hospital care? No – for the simple reason that the NHS and social care (in Shropshire and the rest of England) face real terms spending cuts. Our GPs do an excellent job, but have a workforce and workload crisis of their own. It’s laughable to suppose GPs can magically absorb a 30% increase in workload as the A&E and hospital close, and the number of hospital beds is slashed. The social care services provided by Shropshire Council have already been cut to the bone, with Telford and Wrekin services not too far behind. Shropshire’s NHS Community Trust does the best job it can with limited resources, but the number of district nurses has already been cut, and there is simply no money to plug the huge holes that will be left if a hospital closes down. There is extraordinary games playing continuing around the promised Urgent Care Centres, leaving the future of Minor Injuries Units and Community Hospitals uncertain. Most bizarrely of all, NHS England says that Shropshire’s NHS is overfunded! There is a shocking lack of understanding at national level about the health needs of rural communities.
Combine all this with the shocking £22 billion deficit built into the new government’s NHS funding plans, and it’s clear that new money for Shropshire’s NHS will not be found without a fight. All the claims that the Future Fit project in Shropshire is about better healthcare are ‘spin’. This is why the latest delays are not good news. This is about cover for delaying an unpopular public announcement and for kicking into touch the empty promises of better healthcare.
Two final points need to be made.
Shropshire’s NHS bosses claim again and again that ‘clinicians’ support their plans. We have spoken to many GPs, hospital doctors, A&E nurses and other hospital nurses, community nurses and therapists… skilled professionals who tell us that the closure of one of our A&Es and hospitals would be an absolute disaster.
And should we wait and see what happens (the position of some of our local MPs)? There is a telling phrase in the latest public statement:-
Dr Caron Morton of Shropshire CCG and Mr David Evans of Telford & Wrekin CCG said: “We have to make sure we make the best decisions before we choose a preferred option that we will consult the public about…”
So, they decide, they choose – and then and only then do they go through a ‘consultation’ where the outcome is already determined. NHS bosses have made a disastrous mistake. They have forgotten that it is their job to serve us, the public, and to be accountable to us.
It’s essential that we fight hard for what we’ve got. That means that we have to defend both our A&Es and both our acute hospitals. Our two hospitals serve a population of 540,000 people, in an area of over 2000 square miles, across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Powys. Both of our hospitals must stay.
Please come to the planning meeting: 2pm, Saturday 13th June, United Reform Church, Shrewsbury SY3 7BJ.
Gill George, Chair
Julia Evans, Secretary
Shropshire Defend Our NHS