Call for Future Fit consultation to be open about borrowing
The Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council has called on the consultation on the future of hospital services to be completely transparent about where the money behind plans to change these services will come from.
Cllr Shaun Davies has said the vast majority of funding for the plans, called ‘Future Fit’ will be a costly loan, as the consultation on the proposals enters its second week.
Cllr Davies said: “Reading the consultation, most people will assume this funding is a grant with no future consequences.
“It’s not. The vast majority of this will be a very expensive loan which will have to be paid back.
“People are being asked to respond to a consultation without the full facts.”
The ‘Future Fit’ plan aims to centralise pre-arranged operations at one of the county’s two main hospitals, with emergency care at the other. With two main options being consulted on, the preference of ‘Future Fit’ would see the Princess Royal Hospital lose its new £28m Women and Children’s Centre and 24/7 A&E to Shrewsbury. This option would cost £312million.
Telford & Wrekin Council favours ‘Option 2’ which would preserve these emergency services in Telford and concentrate planned care in Shrewsbury. Option 2 would cost £63million less.
This difference in the cost of borrowing less money would mean at least £3.3 million each year could be spent on more GPs and nurses.
Cllr Davies added: “In February of this year, there was confirmation that ‘Future Fit’ was getting £312 million to pay for the scheme, paving the way for the consultation to begin.
“No-one, not local health bosses, nor the Department of Health which announced the funding, said this would be a loan.
“It was only this week, three months after that announcement and only after pressure from this Council, that health bosses publicly confirmed that most of the money is indeed a loan.
“The truth is – of the £312 million, £200 million would come ‘Public Dividend Capital’, a loan, while at least another £50-100 million would come from private finance – again loans. Given the recent history of private finance in the public sector, people must be asking whether this is what they want for their hospital services
“None of this is clear in the consultation documents and the public have a right to know. The NHS will have to pay the money back but Option 1 would saddle them with many millions of more pounds in interest payments for many decades to come decades than Option 2. This is money that could be spent on more GPs and nurses.
“Our preferred option, Option 2 would cost £63 million less to deliver the same services and save the NHS at least £3.3million a year in interest payments.
“All we have ever asked for is a legal, fair and transparent process. It’s very worrying that now the consultation is underway we again see that Future Fit are not being clear on key issues that are fundamental for people to be able to give an informed view in the consultation.
“Sadly health bosses have put themselves into a corner about the funding - it’s vital that they now be absolutely crystal clear so that the public know what is being asked of them in this consultation.
“We will continue to fight for answers.”