I am confident that the Future Fit proposal will be reviewed. We now have the opportunity to make the case and stop Future Fit. It’s time to put aside the divisive political grandstanding we have all seen to much of locally and make the case together.
The basic premise of the Future Fit project is that improved community care would reduce dependence on A&E and hospital care. It was argued that better health outcomes resulted from care closer to home. Instead of two A&E’s in the County, resources would be centralised in a single state of the art critical care unit.
Five years after this proposal began to be developed, instead of a reduction in demand for A&E, we have increasing demand at both Princess Royal and Royal Shrewsbury. There has been an inability to meet that demand, with some of the worst waiting times in the country and patient safety being compromised. The care quality commission has ranked the hospital trust inadequate for both management and patient care and the trust is in Special Measures.
Nonetheless those responsible for Future Fit continue to push ahead with a plan that simply cannot meet the needs of our community. There is no evidence that ‘out of hospital care’ can improve sufficiently to compensate for the proposed reduction in medical beds. There is no evidence that health outcomes will be improved by transferring resource from one hospital to another and no evidence whatsoever that this management can deliver this enormous £312m project, given the challenges they are already struggling with.
An almost identical proposal to Future Fit was put forward by the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Trust. It was proposed that all emergency acute and high risk planned care would move from one hospital and be concentrated at another hospital site. This proposal was reviewed by an Independent panel and subsequently blocked in 2018 by the Secretary of State on the grounds that it was not in the interests of local people.
We now have the same opportunity to put our case to the Secretary of State. We know Future Fit fails to consider the health needs of our area and is unworkable.
Future Fit proposes to move A&E and Women and Children’s Services from an area with significant pockets of deprivation, and health inequalities, including high rates of children living in low income families. It proposes to concentrate hospital care resource in a more affluent area, almost 20 miles away, which has better than average scores for life expectancy and deprivation and a shrinking population.
We too can successfully make the argument that Future Fit is flawed and does not meet the needs of our population.