Open letter from Council Leader: Getting the best for our local hospital services

Open letter, dated 11 December 2018, from Cllr Shaun Davies, Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council to: Mr Simon Wright, Chief Executive, The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust; Dr Jo Leahy, Chair, Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group; Mr David Evans, Chief Officer, Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group; Dr Simon Freeman, Accountable Officer, Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group; Dr Julian Povey, Chair, Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group.

Open letter from Council Leader: Getting the best for our local hospital services

The last week has proved another difficult one for our local hospitals. The findings of the Care Quality Commission’s inspection report into The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH) comes as no surprise to me.

The CQC report highlights the shortcomings in SaTH’s management and leadership, which has led in particular to a failure to tackle problems and crises within the organisation. They found a culture that failed to listen and where staff were fearful of raising concerns.

Their findings echo many of the shortcomings that Telford & Wrekin Council warned about repeatedly over the last two years about the management culture and its impact on patient safety. The report also shows how every day the staff at SaTH care deeply and do their utmost to support and care for patients.

The fact that SaTH came within a whisker of closing the Princess Royal Hospital’s A&E department is one such example of SaTH’s management’s head-in-the-sand approach. The decision not to close the A&E overnight was thanks to a strong public reaction. This forced NHS bosses to work harder to find the necessary doctors and nurses to support its A&Es both in Telford and in Shrewsbury full time.

The Government too must listen and act. The current shortage nationally of doctors and nurses is of huge concern and a major threat to our health services both now and in the future. There needs to be a credible plan to address this serious issue in the longer term.

The longer term plan for SaTH centres on the Future Fit process, two of the instigators of which are themselves failing. They are; SaTH who have been judged to be “inadequate” and Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group who are tens of millions of pounds in debt and were themselves in Special Measures. Future Fit is the product of a failing health economy.

It is no surprise then that Future Fit’s preferred Option (Option One) has been roundly rejected by 65% of people in their consultation. While the Clinical Senate, a group set up to provide independent strategic advice and guidance, signed off the planned new model splitting planned and emergency care over the two hospital sites with only full 24/7 A&E for the whole county, it did not have a preferred option. This all means that Future Fit and its preferred option has no mandate from the people it serves.

The people must now be listened to if the improvement of our hospitals is to progress with any credibility.

This Council has repeatedly raised concerns about ‘Future Fit’ in the same way we did about SaTH. Sadly, just as SaTH’s first reaction has been to downplay its own failings, Future Fit’s reaction is to defend its “preferred option” even though the consultation shows it’s not what people want. ‘Future Fit’ is due to come to a decision on the future of hospital services in the next few months. It will have huge consequences for health care for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and mid Wales for many decades. This option costs the most, delivers fewer community services to keep people out of hospital in the first place and offers no guarantees that it will solve the recruitment problems or some of the issues highlighted in the CQC inspection.

Option Two, which retains the new state of the art Women & Children’s Centre at its current location at the Princess Royal Hospital, with its lower cost can at least address some of the concerns and boost community capacity to help reduce growing demand on hospital services. Most importantly, despite what SaTH would have us believe, it is also clinically deliverable. Clinicians say that both options are deliverable.

I urge all involved in this process – take time, think again but above all take a step back and listen to ensure you do the right thing.

The direction of travel of ‘Future Fit’ has been rejected by the people and so has the end destination. If those in Government who write the cheques for this failed system don’t intervene and the direction of travel is not changed, then those in the driving seats must take personal responsibility and resign.

If there were to be a pause, it would allow communities, councils and organisations to come together to find a united way forward. So much rides on this decision that our healthcare system and its leaders must not again be found to be inadequate.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Shaun Davies

Leader of the Council

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