THE future of Shropshire’s healthcare services will continue to hang in the balance as programme bosses agreed to push back a public consultation until after next year’s General Election.
Leaders of the NHS Future Fit programme pushed back plans to reveal a shake-up of services in a bid to avoid clashing with elections.
Now the programme, led by local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the local health community, will be revealed for public scrutiny in May 2015.
The current vision includes having one fully-equipped emergency centre available 24 hours a day and multiple urgent care centres that give advice and expert opinion. It also reveals plans to assess patients using the NHS-111 service and to provide more care at home.
Currently, patients from the Oswestry region travel to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) then go on to the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford for specialist treatment.
Shropshire councillor for Oswestry, Martin Bennett, said the decision is “regrettable”, adding: “It will put a great deal more uncertainty on healthcare provision in Shropshire for the next 12 months and it is not the best decision for people of Shropshire.
“My concern is if there are any political changes after the next General Election, the excuse will be that they have to put it off again to assess any changes,” he added.
Shropshire Councillor David Lloyd, who represents Selattyn and Gobowen, added: “I would have preferred to have a longer and more meaningful dialogue rather than this delay. We have waited a long time to see the way ahead and people are getting impatient.”
But Montgomeryshire MP, Glyn Davies welcomed the decision to postpone the consultation. He said: “Trying to conduct such a complex and sensitive debate against the background of electioneering would make reasonable and rational discussion impossible.”
The programme was formed to review all healthcare services and make improvements to acute and community hospital services in Shropshire, in a bid to secure quality healthcare in the region for the next 20 years.
David Evans, Future Fit joint chairman and accountable officer for Telford and Wrekin CCG, said the revised consultation gives a realistic target for the board, adding: “By delaying consultation it will give extra time to work on other features of the programme, including financial and clinical modelling, technical analysis and feasibility studies. These will all feed into the consultation so that it is as meaningful and informative as we can possibly make it.”