After years of uncertainty, NHS Future Fit has now made a formal recommendation about the future of Shropshire’s healthcare.
The recommendation is that Shrewsbury’s Royal Shrewsbury Hospital should be home to Shropshire’s only Emergency Department, and that Telford’s brand new Women and Children’s Centre, should be moved to the Royal Shrewsbury.
However, the recommendation, which seems skewed to the needs of Wales, does nothing to resolve the uncertainty around future healthcare provision for Shropshire. The recommendation leaves fundamental questions unanswered and there is doubt that this scheme could become a reality.
Firstly, does the recommendation help narrow health inequalities? The NHS has a legal duty to ensure all investments and decision-making reduces health inequalities. The health inequalities between Telford and Shropshire are substantial. Telford has significantly below average health outcomes, by almost every measure. Shropshire, however, has above average outcomes. Future Fit has not explained how their proposal will tackle this. In Parliament, in writing and in person, I have raised concerns that Future Fit has not given Telford’s health needs adequate weighting in the decision making process.
Second, does the process have the support of the people of Telford? The process is supposed to be locally driven, and clinician led. The clinicians who have contributed to the Future Fit recommendation do not live in Telford. The public consultation is about to begin and you will have your chance to express a view. Please make your voice heard.
Third, it is unclear whether Future Fit has the funding needed for this new scheme and whether moving the Women and Children’s Centre provides value for money. Funding will be needed to go ahead with this scheme. To date there is no confirmation that this money is available.
There is a long way to go and much that local representatives can do to ensure Telford gets its voice heard and the healthcare it needs for its future. This will remain my number one priority.
At this stage, Future Fit’s recommendation appears wholly implausible. It does nothing to narrow health inequalities, it does not appear to have local support and it appears to be unfunded.
As Telford’s MP, I will continue to remind the Local NHS Commissioners, NHS England and the Secretary of State that they all have a legal duty to narrow health inequalities and that means investing in Telford’s long term future.