17 April 2016
A cursory look at a few of the recent headlines in our regional press tells its own story about the ongoing dire state of our local health services, culminating in overwhelmed A&Es at the two hospitals that serve our area - the Royal Shrewsbury and Telford's Princess Royal – and several recent periods where no ambulances have been available in the county having been held in queues four or more deep as they waited for their patients to be admitted .
Latest ‘Future Fit’ plans – the so-called Strategic Outline Case - still involve the closure of an A&E, leaving one 'hot' site hosting the remaining A&E and one 'warm' site hosting an urgent care centre and offering planned care, with uncertainty as to whether it will be Shrewsbury or Telford that retains A&E facilities, and a £38 million hole in local NHS finances as well.
These plans are dependent on finding big savings in a system that is already stretched to breaking point, and on diverting 69% of A&E admissions elsewhere. This is despite a recent statement from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine highlighting the major risks of downgrading or centralising emergency departments in rural areas . The South Shropshire Green Party says that the area's comparatively rural and aged population - 700 000 and growing - needs two acute hospitals and two high-quality A&Es.
Other cuts are planned to: trauma and orthopaedic services; GP prescribing and mental health; learning disability and acquired brain injury services.
Community services, in particular community hospital beds, are also at risk. This is evidenced by the ongoing issues around the title deeds of Ludlow Hospital. Our local Conservative MP Philip Dunne is calling for a lease to be signed. However, the South Shropshire Green Party asks why Mr Dunne isn't working for the wholesale return of Ludlow Hospital to the NHS? Mr Dunne's preferred solution will permanently shift the ownership of the hospital, once held in public ownership for the common good, to a body called PropCo, to which the NHS Community Trust will have to pay rent .
John Crowe, a member of South Shropshire Green Party’s 'Healthy Greens' group, told us, "As a patient and resident, I am seriously concerned about the impact of the proposals contained in the Strategic Outline Case for our hospitals and for the outcome of Future Fit. These are ideologically driven proposals containing real and dangerous risks to patient safety and mean a severe reduction in the NHS clinical services necessary to secure adequate provision for Shropshire’s residents”.
The picture in the local authority doesn’t look much better. Central Government cuts mean Shropshire Council is currently facing its biggest ever financial challenge. Since 2009, £146m has been cut from Shropshire’s budget and by 2020 it will be a further £77m worse off.
The predicted budget for 2020/21 is estimated to be £188m, of which £163m (87%) would be spent on core mandatory services such as adults' and children’s social care and safeguarding, domestic waste disposal, concessionary travel and school transport. Just £25m (13%) of the budget will be left to spend on the remaining 150-plus services currently provided to the people of Shropshire. This is a 75% reduction in the money currently spent on these services.
Dr David Gibbon, Co-ordinator of the South Shropshire Green Party, told us, “The UK spends approximately 20% less per annum on healthcare than other wealthy, developed countries  in spite of being the fifth-wealthiest country in the world” . “The money is there but not the political will to mobilise it for the benefit of people’s health and wellbeing. The South Shropshire Green Party calls for: (a) fully funded NHS & Community health services suited to the needs of Shropshire; (b) the retention of both current A&Es and an end to the uncertainty over their future; (c) a full public health service to include Ludlow Hospital, and no creeping privatisation”.
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