Future Fit plans referred to government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel
The Department for Health and Social Care have confirmed that concerns around Future Fit hospital transformation plans have been referred to the government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
Lord Markham, Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, is seeking the panel’s advice on plans to downgrade emergency services at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and move consultant-led women and children’s care to Shrewsbury.
The move follows a series of requests for review from Telford & Wrekin Council, the first of which was in March 2023 - more than six months ago - because of concerns that plans do not take account of the latest population and health inequalities data.
The original Future Fit plans - developed in 2018 - are based on data that is now at least eight years out of date and is no longer supported by the most recent census information.
The 2021 census details that Telford and Wrekin has:
- A faster growing ageing population than Shropshire;
- A growing number of women and children within the borough;
- A disproportionately higher number of residents without access to a private motor vehicle than in Shropshire, creating significant challenges for those needing to travel more than 20 miles to access hospital care and treatment; and
- Greater health inequalities than in Shropshire.
Leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Shaun Davies said: “We’ve been waiting for six months for a response to our request for a review of Future Fit plans, so confirmation that the under-secretary is seeking advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel is a positive, if long awaited step.
“My plea to them is to carefully consider the facts.
“Telford and Wrekin has one of the fastest growing and ageing populations in the country, yet Telford stands to become the largest town in England without access to a full A&E service.
“Those without access to their own car or van, face marathon journeys of up to 4 hours each way to reach the hospital in Shrewsbury by bus.
“All of this stands to widen the gap between people who have good health and those who don’t. Our residents rely on local services. They deserve better.”
Concerns have also been raised with the government about the lack of transparency over what residents in Telford and Wrekin can expect from the Princess Royal Hospital if the proposals go ahead.
Councillor Davies continued: “We’re still to hear what an A&E Local is in practice. No-one seems able to explain this.
“We’re also discovering – bit by bit – that elements of planned care will also be moved to Shrewsbury. Planned cancer care. Planned care for children.
“Transformation plans submitted by health leaders in August 2022 were costed at around £500 million. When there’s £312 million available – what other services are we going to see moved away from Telford or scaled back?”
“This decision will ultimately land back on the desk of the Health Secretary. We are urging him to over-turn the decision made by Matt Hancock MP to give these plan the green light, come clean on proposals to downgrade our services and to listen to our residents.”
The Independent Reconfiguration Panel has been asked to respond to the Under-Secretary by no later than 17 November 2023 and to provide an alternative timetable if this is not achievable.