SWINGEING budget cuts to health services could compound problems already being faced in the Oswestry area.
That was the claim made by Oswestry town councillors after hearing that Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (SCCG) has had its budget for the next five years slashed by £16 million.
Councillor Paul Milner, a member of the public participation engagement committee for SCCG, suggested the drop in funding could result in even longer waiting times for ambulances while Cllr Martin Bennett, county councillor for Oswestry East, called for a rethink on how funding is distributed in rural areas in comparison to urban communities.
And Cllr Sandy Best revealed she had suffered first hand from how stretched the ambulance service already is.
Cllr Milner said: “The ambulance service is already quite poor at the moment and I’m worried this could spell more delays.
“It can’t afford to lose any more funding.”
He said Shropshire suffered because the ambulance service was run in line with a national model and suggested a more tailored system designed for a rural county would be much more suitable.
NHS commissioners from SCCG and representatives from West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) held “constructive talks” on health services earlier this month after it came to light WMAS had been struggling to meet targets, particularly in rural areas.
The authorities claimed patient safety would always be “the absolute priority” despite the consolidation of stroke services in Telford which placed an extra burden on the ambulance service.
But in December the Advertizer reported on the sad case of Trevor Lloyd, a pensioner from Babbinswood who was left waiting for an ambulance for nearly two hours after suffering a stroke.
And during the Christmas period Cllr Best’s partner endured a similar length wait for emergency help when she suffered a serious kidney infection.
Cllr Best said: “It’s a nightmare.
“I’m deeply concerned about this and I don’t think it’s going to improve.
“The reality is if we keep making cuts, services will never recover.
“Cost cutting has to stop when it’s someone’s life in danger.”
Cllr Bennett agreed budget cuts were felt particularly deeply in rural areas like Oswestry and its surrounding villages because residents already have a smaller budget per head than those living in towns and cities.
According to Professor Rod Thomson, director for public health at Shropshire Council, the public health grant for Shropshire is £29 per head, well below the national average of £49 per head.
Cllr Bennett added: “Shropshire Council is working hard on this issue.
“We’re fighting for fairer funding because if we had it, we would definitely be in a better position right now.”