There will be “hell to pay” if Shropshire health bosses ignore the results of a public consultation which voted against moving A&E services out of Telford, campaigners and senior councillors have warned.
Today was the day earmarked for the Princess Royal Hospital’s emergency department to close overnight.
That was called off after more consultants were recruited - but people against cuts or changes to Shropshire’s health service, told our reporter Charlotte Cross today that the real fight is only just beginning.
Almost 19,000 people responded to the public consultation, run over the summer, to do with what’s known as ‘Future Fit’ - a plan to reduce the number of A&E departments in the county from two to one.
Under the scheme, either Royal Shrewsbury or Princess Royal in Telford would be kept as the county’s only emergency department, and the other downgraded to a ‘planned care centre’.
Of the responses:
51% came from Telford & Wrekin
19% from Shropshire
16% from the Wales / Shropshire border and Powys
14% not stated / other
For option 1 - Downgrade Telford, keep Shrewsbury:
65% said they strongly disagree / disagree
31% said they strongly agree / agree
For option 2 - Downgrade Shrewsbury, keep Telford:
44% said they strongly disagree / disagree
50% said they strongly agree / agree
Option 1 is the preferred course of action - but speaking to ITV News Central, the council’s cabinet member for health Arnold England said there would likely be more protests, and an appeal to the Health Secretary, if the decision - expected in February - continues with that despite the outcome of the consultation.
We will do everything in our power. We will take it to the highest level.
It comes after an estimated 3,000 people marched through Wellington in Telford in protest at plans to close Telford’s A&E overnight.
The overnight closure was due to come into force tonight (December 5), but was averted with just two weeks to spare after the Trust managed to recruit additional consultants.
Defend the NHS campaigner Gill George said it showed the strength of feeling, and said it wasn’t going anywhere.
“If it would have been wrong to close the A&E today, it will of course be wrong to close the A&E next year, the year after that. Or at any point in the future,” she said.
“If we lose an A&E, if we see the other NHS cuts that go along with Future Fit plans we will see people die unnecessarily. And people will fight that every inch of the way.”
Future Fit will cost more than £300 million, and take five years to get up and running.
But the Trust insists it’s the only feasible course of action.
Chief executive Simon Wright said they had been unable to appoint any new consultants for the past six years. But since announcing Future Fit, they've hired four.
"We recognise that the configuration of our hospitals is not aligned to what you might expect in modern healthcare organisations,” he said.
“So Future Fit allows us to address those problems and to secure the workforce. Where we've centralised our services to date. we've seen our workforce challenges disappear."
Among the new recruits was Dr Edward Rysdale - who left several years ago, but returned specifically to help make the restructure happen.
“That’s the reason I came back, and I can’t speak for my colleagues but I’m fairly sure for them too,” he said.
"If this doesn't happen there is a real risk that recruitment will fall, retaining staff will be hard, and we're back to square one with potential closure overnight and potential closure for longer periods of time.
“Future Fit is the only clinical, robust option that I have seen."
A decision on the Future Fit plans is expected at the start of the new year.