"Future Fit"  Update -  extract from our Newsletter Issue 51, July 2019

Compiled by Chairman Peter Corfield

"Since the last Newsletter (No 50) in January, the long-awaited developments promised and agreed by Future Fit have retreated into Purdah, once again!   At the heart of this long-overdue review was the need to address the sustainability of hospital facilities across Shropshire and Powys and the obvious failure of political and financial judgements made in 1980.   The decisions to re-locate the Royal Salop Infirmary to a new build at Mytton Oak Road and incorporate the Copthorne Hospital, close the Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital and Cross Houses and build a new General Hospital at Telford (9 miles away) was, with hindsight, a missed golden opportunity to place Hospital care at the very heart of the County.   The consequent wholesale closure of cottage and community hospitals, in order to afford the new hospitals, has truly come home to roost in the 21st century and has created the unacceptable financial and workload pressures endured by A&E at SaTH today.

 We are firm in our belief that a vital component in solving this 40 year old conundrum has to be the part to be played by Community Hospitals.   The delivery of “Care closer to Home” is oft quoted as the current panacea to deal with all ills – but there is little concrete action to support such an ideal.   Some actions, which could be taken now, are very simple – instead of local road signs stating “Ludlow Hospital – No A&E” why not state what we do have, i.e “Ludlow Hospital – Minor Injuries Unit” which would be inexpensive and informative!

 Since 2006, when The League first published its Vision Document, we have proposed various additions to the Minor Injuries Unit, such as video-conferencing access to A&E  incorporating patients’ vital data (blood pressure, ECG, etc) all of which could lead to fewer unnecessary ambulance transfers to Shrewsbury, Telford or Hereford.

Our beleaguered Midwife-led Maternity Unit will not provide a birthing unit if the latest proposal by the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) is to be believed, as it launches another public consultation.   Instead the Unit will act as a hub for maternity services, clinics etc.

 For the past two years The League has pressed for scans to be carried out locally using the ultrasound scanner which we purchased and configured for obstetrics.    Regrettably, neither SaTH nor the CCG can be bothered to pursue this perfect example of “Care closer to Home”, or answer correspondence, unless it can be claimed as their idea!  Instead our new mums to be have to trek to Telford and join the queue for a procedure that could, and should, be delivered at Ludlow Hospital!

 A review of the Future Fit proposals is currently taking place and will report to the Health Secretary (Matt Hancock – remember him?) but a decision is not expected for some time.   In the meantime there is growing concern about the shortage of GPs and the threatened closure of some GP Practices.   This will have a direct impact on the ability to deliver “Care closer to Home”.   The associated impoverishment of social care services and shortage of Carers and Nursing Home accommodation and staff will undoubtedly challenge the ability of any authority to deliver “Care closer to Home”.

 Happily the NHS Trust that operates our Hospital has a better grasp and appreciation of the value of community services and the need for our Community Hospitals, Minor Injuries Units and in-patient and treatment facilities to provide strong support and alternatives to admission to or emergency treatment at District General Hospitals.

Members will recall when in 2013, just as work was due to commence on the new hospital in Ludlow, we witnessed the re-shuffling of Finance Directors, Project  Managers, Chief Executives and then appointments of “Interim” replacements.  A “review” followed and the project was cancelled five weeks before the contractors were due on site!  Is history about to repeat itself??  "


Where we were - 10th August 2018

We are now over half way through the Future Fit public consultation period when for once there is a golden opportunity for everyone to express their views on the long-term plans for healthcare in Shropshire. Every campaigning organisation, every political party, every NHS Trust has urged people to “Have your say on improving hospital services for people in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and mid-Wales” and various opinions and recommendations have been put to local communities.

At Ludlow on 4 July there was a public exhibition event, staffed by clinicians and NHS management ready to answer questions and flesh out the proposals, and The League of Friends distributed 750 copies of the Public Consultation Summary to inform the Public. Why, then, were there only 65 people who dropped in to the Mascall Centre event – is it that people are not interested enough in the future of the local NHS, or that the message has not yet sunk in?

Experience tells me that the local NHS shenanigans are the hottest topics in town and the long drawn-out Future Fit debates over the past five years have clearly failed to impress local residents. The NHS is notoriously bad at communicating with the public at large especially when it is proposing changes to long established practices. The “Hundreds have Future Fit Say” headline hides the dismal fact that out of “over half a million people who use our hospitals” only 1,000 have filled in survey forms and only 500 attended the public exhibitions.

At this rate, less than 0.3% of eligible NHS clients will affect the final outcome. It is time for Future Fit to write, urgently, to every household to kick start the public consultation.