They will wonder if we’re mad

Below is the Editorial from the Thursday, 14 April 2016 edition of the Shropshire Star. It makes a complete break with the former position of the paper by suggesting it would be mad to close one of our two A&Es. With both CCG Boards refusing to automatically support the SaTH plans last week, the tide is turning. Support for the Future Fit programme is at an all time low.

We make no apology for returning to a familiar subject, Future Fit, which must be one of the most ponderous and protracted decision-making processes in Shropshire’s history.

And why are we revisiting it? Because nothing has happened. It is the theme of Future Fit that nothing happens.

But in the nothing that has happened we fancy that we detect a change in the quality of that nothingness. With Future Fit everything has been put off so often that it has virtually become the agreed policy by which Future Fit should become characterised. After all, it is not titled Present Fit, is it?

This week’s decisions by Shropshire’s health commissioning bodies are entirely in keeping. Shropshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group has deferred a decision on an outline strategy for the county’s two main hospitals. It follows a similar decision by Telford’s CCG. Both are asking for more details on how the plans would work.

Nothing to report from the front, then. However, this decision, or rather non-decision, may be a lot more significant than it might appear at first sight.

Perhaps for the first time in the whole process there is a sense of wavering about what the Shropshire and Mid-Wales public has been told repeatedly – that the only workable model would see just one accident and emergency department for the whole county.

The idea is that the lone A&E department would be supported by local urgent care centres. The questions and the doubts are multiplying. There is a tidal wave of need and redirecting it away from the hospitals will simply mean that somebody else gets swamped, unless they are given the extra resources to cope – an unlikely prospect.

Future historians will look back on what is happening now. Their research will reveal how hugely overworked Shropshire’s two A&E departments were, to such an extent that a little boy had to be taken to hospital by fire engine because there were no ambulances, and the reason for that was that ambulance crews were unable to get away from the Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals because paramedics were treating patients in the corridors.

They will take from the archives the faded Future Fit proposals and note that in these circumstances the central proposal was to close one of Shropshire’s A&E departments. And they will wonder if we were all mad.

 

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