Our Hospital Trust: Losing the Plot, and Gambling with Lives

When something goes wrong in the NHS, there’s a need for healthcare providers to say ‘What happened, and how can we make sure it never happens again?’

Our hospital trust, SaTH, doesn’t work like that. When they fail, the response seems to be a defensive one, a knee jerk response of ‘Well, nothing happened, and even it did, it wasn’t our fault’. It’s dangerous, because it prevents learning, and it places lives at risk.



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In your constituency, what are Parliamentary candidates saying about the NHS?

Click here to find out:

A recent Shropshire Star poll showed that the NHS was, by a very big margin, the single most important election issue for Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin voters.

It’s no wonder. Nationally the NHS and social care are at a tipping point. Targets for cancer care, ambulance response times, and A&E treatment are being missed. Waiting lists for planned surgery are rising inexorably. There aren’t enough doctors, nurses or other staff. There aren’t enough beds. The gaps in social care reinforce the NHS crisis, and leave a growing number of people without the support they need. The Health Select Committee and independent NHS think tanks such as the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust have highlighted the funding crisis in the NHS, and the way this is now affecting patient care.

In Shropshire, things are, if anything, even worse. Our area is grotesquely underfunded, getting the 6th lowest level of funding in the whole country – despite above average health need. Telford and Wrekin people face the loss of the A&E and Women’s and Children’s Centre. The remaining A&E will have capacity reduced by a shocking 60% – a direct route to chaos, given that our two A&Es couldn’t cope between them this winter. Rationing and cuts are already affecting hip and knee replacement surgery, mental health services, and referrals for specialist care. In Shropshire, social care cuts have been devastating for frail elderly people, people with learning disabilities, and people with mental health problems.

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Babies die – but no accountability

Thursday’s Board meeting of SaTH, our local hospital organisation, was downright bizarre. They closed most of the building where the meeting was held. Members of the public were greeted by security guards on our way in, and taken to a separate room to wait. Our bags were searched as we entered the building. Anyone visiting the toilet was carefully watched, with a security guard waiting outside. Three security guards sat around the sides of the room throughout the meeting. They were pleasant individuals and somewhat embarrassed – but it all felt closer to a high security prison than a public Board meeting. According to NHS England, the ‘purpose of NHS boards is to govern effectively, and in so doing build patient, public and stakeholder confidence that their health and healthcare is in safe hands’. Our Board’s approach to building confidence now seems to be to regard the public with hostility and suspicion.

There may be a reason for their fear. We believe they were trying to keep quiet about a series of avoidable deaths in local maternity services – and the truth about those deaths is now starting to emerge. In February, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into a cluster of baby deaths in Shropshire. That review is now looking at the deaths of fifteen babies and three mothers. At least seven baby deaths between September 2014 and May 2016 have already been shown to be avoidable – they simply should not have happened.

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An Unfolding Tragedy

Resign – and Suspend

How many more babies have to die in Shropshire’s maternity service? How many more have to be left with lifelong disabilities as a result of hospital mistakes? We have been told again and again by hospital chiefs that ‘lessons have been learned’ – and each time, more babies have died.

There is a catastrophic failure of leadership in our local hospitals, the Royal Shrewsbury and Telford’s Princess Royal (‘SaTH’).

If Chief Executive Simon Wright cannot guarantee safe patient care, he should resign.

As Medical Director, Dr Edwin Borman is directly responsible for the quality and safety of patient care. There is now an investigation into the deaths of babies in Shropshire’s maternity service, ordered by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Dr Borman should be suspended until that investigation has completed.

When Medical Director Edwin Dr Borman responds to reports of avoidable baby deaths by saying ‘When I look at the perinatal mortality rate at our trust compared to the rest of the NHS, we are at an equivalent level to the rest of the country,’ he shows that he is not fit to do his job. The coroner and the courts have found that babies in Shropshire have died avoidable deaths. Every one of those deaths is both a tragedy and a disgrace. Hiding behind averages, when babies have died unnecessarily, is as unacceptable as it gets.

The heart breaking tragedy of avoidable baby deaths

On Wednesday last week, the BBC broke the news. Most of us know about the tragic death of Kate Stanton Davies in 2009 – and the desperate attempts of SaTH, the hospital trust, to evade taking responsibility for her death.

We now know of many more deaths of babies. Jenson Barnett, June 2013. Twins Ella and Lola Greene, September 2014. Sophiya Hotchkiss, September 2014. Oliver Smale, March 2015. Jack Burn, March 2015. Kye Hall, August 2015. Graham Scott Holmes-Smith, December 2015. Ivy Morris, December 2015. Pippa Griffiths, May 2016. All but two of these deaths have been ruled as ‘avoidable’ by the coroner or the courts. The remaining two are regarded as ‘suspicious’. Continue reading

2016: A Year of Defending the NHS

Shropshire’s NHS ends 2016 in deep trouble – but in better shape than it would be without the Defend Our NHS campaign.

newyear2017It’s been an extraordinary year, with the scale of the attacks on the NHS becoming increasingly clear – but also with mounting evidence of ordinary people in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin being willing to stand firm and defend the healthcare we all depend on.

In Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Defend Our NHS, we reckon we’ve achieved a great deal in the last 12 months. We stopped ‘temporary’ A&E closure last winter, and overnight A&E closure in the spring. We forced the re-opening of Stroke Rehab at Shrewsbury, following the disgraceful unannounced closure of the service in June. We stopped the £670,000 cuts planned by Shropshire CCG in August, preventing savage cuts to services for people with mental health problems, and services for frail elderly people. In October, we organised the tremendous demonstration in Wellington against closure of A&E and Women’s and Children’s at the Princess Royal. And very, very importantly indeed, we’ve reduced the Future Fit cuts and closure plans to chaos. Currently we’re working alongside local groups to defend rural maternity services against shockingly brutal attacks, with some real victories behind us already. We believe we’ve saved lives this year, and we’re very proud of that.

Next year, though, will be even tougher as the NHS financial crisis deepens. We’re set to see the biggest cuts in the history of the NHS. In 2017, we’ll face the fight of our lives to stop the dismantling of local services.

We need your help. We need to build a network of campaigners in every town and village. We need people who can help organise petitioning and leafleting, lobby our MPs and councillors, write letters to local papers, talk to their neighbours, come to consultation events and argue the case for both our A&Es and hospitals and for the funding to make it happen… If you think you can take on a bit more of a role, please send a quick email to info@shropshiredefendournhs.org . Our NHS may depend on you! Continue reading

NO to A&E Closure: Key Meeting Next Week

Future Fit Cuts: The meeting where the NHS bosses want to give formal approval to the closure of an A&E is at 6.30 pm on Monday 12th December, Telford International Centre, St Quentin Gate, Telford TF3 4JH

This is an important meeting. We need the largest possible public attendance. The meeting takes us decisively closer to the loss of one of our A&Es.

Health bosses want to slash spending on local NHS services by around £150 million every single year. Part of the cuts and closure plan is Future Fit: the closure of one of our A&Es and the downgrading of one of our acute hospitals to a ‘Planned Care Centre’. Currently it seems that Telford’s Princess Royal A&E is more at risk than Shrewsbury – but either way, we’ll all end up with an A&E less than half the capacity of our current A&Es, and longer journeys to access either emergency care or routine planned care. Across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and Powys, we all lose out. There are no winners when major NHS cuts are driven through.

There are other cuts: £3.8 million cuts to Shropshire’s community hospitals; deep cuts to hip and knee replacement surgery; cuts to rural maternity services…  Part of the plan is to transfer 30% of activity out of hospitals, but without the investment to pay for care in community settings. The pretence is that ‘resilient communities’ and ‘self-care’ will fill the gaps. They call this ‘care close to home’!

A Clinical Commissioning Group Joint Committee meeting (Shropshire, and Telford & Wrekin) on Monday 12th December will decide the Future Fit preferred option i.e. the A&E they want to close. We need NHS users there to remind them that the NHS belongs to us. We have our own preferred option: two A&Es, two hospitals, and the money to pay for decent health and social care.

Monday evening’s meeting is an incredibly important one. We need maximum public attendance to make it clear that we will defend BOTH our A&Es and BOTH our hospitals, Telford and Shrewsbury alike. Come to the meeting: 6.30pm, Monday 12 December at the Telford International Centre, St Quentin Gate, Telford, TF3 4JH. You can find the paperwork for the meeting here:

Two other events you may be interested in are these NHS Clinical Commissioning Group meetings:

  • Telford and Wrekin CCG, Tuesday 13th December. Hadley Park House Hotel, Hadley Park East, Telford TF1 6QJ. Time not yet published. This will eventually be found in a link from this page: http://www.telfordccg.nhs.uk/governance-board-papers-2016
  • Shropshire CCG, 9.00 am, also on Tuesday 13th December. The Regency Suite, the Lord Hill Hotel, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury SY2 6AX.

It is very likely that both of these meetings will be signing off the Sustainability and Transformation cuts plan of which Future Fit is a part. The meeting times have been changed to put them on the same day. Draw your own conclusions about why.

Is Ludlow’s Midwife Led Unit being closed permanently?

Letter to Simon Wright, Chief Executive, Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust from Gill George, Chair of the Campaign:

Dear Simon

I note the closure of maternity services at Ludlow Hospital on Friday 14th October, with no notice and no public consultation.

In the news release from SaTH, you describe the closure as ‘temporary’, and comment:

“The decision to temporarily suspend services is not one we have taken lightly, but one we felt to be necessary and in the best interest of mums, babies and staff.

“I have requested a number of reports, including a structural survey, to be conducted into the condition of the building. No further decisions about when services will resume will be made until the findings of those reports are returned and evaluated.

“SaTH is looking to find an alternative area locally to house our antenatal services.”

The closure of the Shrewsbury Midwife Led Unit evidently is temporary, as SaTH states that maintenance work will take two weeks.

The fear, of course, is that the Ludlow closure will be one of those ‘temporary’ events that becomes permanent. It can come as no surprise at all to SaTH that the maternity block at Ludlow Hospital is old and in a poor state of repair. It is common knowledge in Ludlow; the Community Trust has been well aware of this over some years; and the CQC’s 2015 report on Ludlow Hospital maternity services highlighted that the unit was in an old building which required some renovation.

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Is the Lingen Davies Cancer Centre at risk?

Mr Mark Cheetham, a surgeon at the hospitals, has publicly accused Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Defend Our NHS of ‘scaremongering’ when we said cancer care could be lost from the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. It’s an outrageous accusation, and one we absolutely reject. We do not ‘scaremonger’. We quoted current material published by the Future Fit Programme and by the hospital trust itself. The most recent publicly available material from local NHS leaders shows a very clear risk to the future provision of cancer care at the Royal Shrewsbury. It cannot be interpreted any other way.

There is a Future Fit video available here. The relevant section is from around 1:55. This states explicitly that cancer care will be provided from the Planned Care Centre, not the Emergency Centre – and an outline decision was taken on 23rd September that the Planned Care Centre will be Telford. The video is being extensively promoted by the Future Fit Comms team, with no suggestion that it may be wrong.

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Will an A&E close this winter?

Our two A&Es aren’t coping. At both hospitals – the Princess Royal and the Royal Shrewsbury – it is becoming routine for ambulances to be stacked up outside because there is no capacity in A&E; for patients to wait hours for treatment; and then for patients to be left on trolleys for many more hours because there are no hospital beds available. Last weekend, both hospitals failed to cope – and we heard some appalling accounts of what this meant for frail elderly people. This is not the fault of hospital staff. This is about a system that is under-funded and does not have the capacity to cope.

Astonishingly, the hospital trust is floating the idea of CLOSING one of the A&Es almost immediately. Just think that through. We have two A&Es that aren’t coping. Hospital bosses are considering closing one of them down, at the start of the winter, and at a time when they are already saying they don’t have enough money to pay for the number of sick patients they are expecting to have to treat. If they do something as stupid as this, it guarantees chaos in our hospitals this winter – and it comes close to guaranteeing unnecessary patient deaths.

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Two Dates for Your Diary

In the last few months, the Campaign has produced 13,000 leaflets, 1000 badges, 1000 window stickers, and assorted petitions, posters and printed reports. All of this costs money. An easy way of supporting our fundraising efforts is to pop along to one of the two events taking place this weekend:

Saturday 22nd October, 8pm – the Shrewsbury Ceilidh! This is at Unison Club, Shirehall, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury (a joint event for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Defend Our NHS and Shropshire People’s Assembly). Come along for live bands, dancing, and a good time! Tickets on the door at £7, or in advance from Pengwern books, Fish Street, Shrewsbury.

Sunday 23rd October, 7.30 pm – Ludlow Choral Concert. A medley of local choirs including Bella Acapella, Ludlow Larks, and St Laurence’s Church Choir. This not to be missed event is at Ludlow Brewery, Station Drive, Ludlow. Tickets on the door at £10.