We discovered a week ago that SaTH, the organisation running the Royal Shrewsbury and Princess Royal Hospitals, had firm plans to close one of the A&Es soon. We’d suspected this for a while. One of the SaTH Directors saying they could close an A&E ‘within weeks or months’ was a bit of a give-away!
At the weekend, though, we found out just how immediate the threat was. We were approached by someone who has to remain anonymous, but who had very good information on what was happening in the hospitals. This person told us that a decision had been taken to close one of the A&Es as part of ‘winter pressures planning’. It seems completely perverse to close an A&E department at the start of the winter, and this ‘quick and dirty’ approach would have caused absolute chaos for patients seeking emergency care – but it really does seem certain that this is what hospital bosses had decided to do. A disgraceful, disgraceful decision.
We did everything we could to publicise this. We didn’t know which A&E they wanted to close – and it didn’t matter. Our two hospitals cover a huge area and a huge population. We need both A&Es and both hospitals. As soon as we learned of the threat to an A&E, we contacted the BBC, the Shropshire Star, other newspapers, all local MPs, and all councillors in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, and Powys. We know that SaTH will have been approached on Monday – by numbers of people and organisations – wanting to know what was happening.
Last Tuesday, a statement was issued, in the names of the Chief Executive of the hospital trust and the Accountable Officers of Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group. They completely denied any plan to close an A&E this winter. We don’t believe this. We know this was their intention; we believe the person who approached us, and we believe the information from other sources – including three hospital trust Directors – that confirms the closure plan.
The denial is brilliant. This means our hospital bosses felt under enough pressure to back down. Now that they have denied any plan to close an A&E, it’s harder for them to do it – not impossible, but certainly more difficult. If we have kept an A&E open, even for a few months, this is an achievement and will have saved lives.
The fight to keep both A&Es and both hospitals is, sadly, far from over. The statement from the three senior NHS people left their options open, They denied any plan to close an A&E, but – choosing their words carefully – did not exclude that they might close an A&E. The Future Fit plan to close an A&E and hospital remains in place, with the addition of £23 million extra cuts from the hospitals budget, and £2 million more cuts from Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group. This is at a time when Shropshire CCG is already making cuts of £9.4 million this year, and £7.4 million every year for the next 5 years. Cuts on this scale – if we do not stop them going ahead – spell devastation for our local healthcare.
We’re going to be doing some serious campaigning for the funding that we need to keep decent healthcare in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin. We’ll be contacting you soon with a new petition, and information on planned events in Shrewsbury and Ludlow.
And finally, the hospital trust has a Board meeting at 2 pm on Thursday 29th October. This is in Newtown, which is of course quite hard for people in Telford and Wrekin or Shropshire to get to. We think they might be trying to stop people getting there! It’s at the Elephant and Castle Hotel, Broad St, Newtown, Powys SY16 2BQ.