The Future Fit process, conducted over the last 6 years, has raised serious concerns about the competence of SaTH management. Special Measures, CQC reports on SaTH’s inadequate performance, the NHSI investigation into maternity care and the baby deaths scandal, the lack of a CEO, all call into question the Trust‘s ability to manage a substantial reconfiguration. Severely inaccurate financial forecasts add to the view that the Future Fit process is flawed and poorly managed.
For years managers and Ministers have hidden behind the ‘comfort blanket’ that Future Fit has been ‘clinically led’. In truth, this project has been led by NHS executives, with a track record of poor decision making and failure.
Future Fit documents show their decision to locate vital hospital services in Shrewsbury was driven not by need, nor by a desire to narrow health inequalities, nor by taxpayer value for money, but by where consultants prefer to work. There must now be a limit to how much public money will be made available to accommodate this preference.
Future Fit recognised that the best value for money option was to locate the new emergency centre and retain the Women & Children’s Centre at Telford’s PRH. Arguably this is also the best option in terms of narrowing health inequalities and improving health outcomes in more disadvantaged communities.
Recent news of a 60% rise in costs of this flawed project to £498m, made public only weeks after the formal sign off, suggests that fundamental elements of the plan were omitted when bidding for public money and when assessing alternative options. Undoubtedly, the costs will continue to rise, if the project is not properly managed.
If the budget is to be increased to £500m, the option of a new standalone specialist emergency care hospital on the M54 must be considered.
In January, I will question Ministers on the baby deaths maternity scandal, special measures, inadequate CQC ratings, lack of Chief Executive, and now this spiralling cost overrun. It is surely time for a fresh approach to improving Shropshire and Telford’s hospital care and for the full attention of the Health Secretary and the Department of Health.