OSWESTRY residents had an opportunity to share their discontent with the proposed changes to two Shropshire hospitals.

The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital of Telford have been at the centre of a healthcare shake up of planned and emergency care.

Oswestry Town Council held a public meeting to discuss the Future Fit plans yesterday (Tuesday, July 24) at the Wynnstay Hotel in where people came to present their concerns to a panel of speakers.

One of the hospitals is set to become a planned care site, while the other takes on the role of providing emergency care.

The preferred option for clinical commissioning groups in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin is to have emergency care and RSH and planned care in Telford.

Both sites would also provide care 24 hours a day, seven days a week from new urgent care centres.

The CCGs claim that the proposed changes would ensure high quality, safe services for those working and living in the region.

They also say that the new plans are intended to make working conditions less stressful for staff, and more specific services will allow doctors and nurses to practice in their preferred roles.

The reasons provided did not seem to satisfy the members of the public at the meeting however, with the majority in attendance holding the belief that the plans are nothing but a mask for healthcare cutbacks in the region.

Neil Graham, from St Martins, voiced his displeasure. He said: “The new ethos at the NHS is supposed to be to see to the patients’ needs, whereas you seem to be focusing too heavily on the financial side rather than the needs of the county.

“I wouldn’t call it future fit, I’d call it future cuts, because it seems to me as though you’re too focused on cuts rather than keeping me and the rest of the people in the region healthy”.

Funding was at the forefront of many of the issues raised by the public at the meeting, with town councillor Duncan Kerr raising his concerns about loan repayments for the redevelopments.

He said: “You say you’ve been given £312 million, but you haven’t you’ve had permission to borrow that sum.

“If you were given it you wouldn’t have to pay it back, but now it’s us as the taxpayers who are going to have to foot the bill.”

Other issues raised by the public included how Future Fit planned to inform homeless people along with disabled and deaf groups about the choice they have, and whether they planned to contact every resident in the region with an information leaflet and survey.

The public’s views were followed by a talk given by Gill George, of Shropshire Defend Our NHS.

Ms George was quick to criticise the format in which Future Fit conducted their presentation, after they left before hearing her speak.

She said: “I have never before been in a public meeting in all my years of attending them, where half of the platform gets up and leaves to avoid listening to what the other half of the panel has to say.”

Ms George also referred to the plans as cost cutting procedures like the public had mentioned before her, and said that she hopes people strongly disagree with both options suggested by Future Fit.

She said: “These are not plans to make the community healthcare better for our region – this is part of a wider plan to squeeze £140 million out of the NHS budget.

“With that being said – what we want is for people to strongly disagree with option one, and also strongly disagree with option two.

“It’s our NHS, and if we don’t make a stand and fight for it, we will lose it.”

There is now another consultation meeting scheduled in Oswestry on August 15 where the public will once more have the opportunity to question Future Fit representatives and put forward their views.

The consultation closing date is midnight on Tuesday, September 4.

Nurse Tom Jones answered questions directed to the Future Fit panel and agreed that the changes are necessary to improve healthcare in Shropshire.

He said: “What we’re looking at are two hospitals struggling to maintain their emergency services, and the result is seeing the planned care services suffer and the two sides are having to compete for the same bed space.

“Under the new plan that wouldn’t happen, you’d have experts at each area with an increased amount of beds to accommodate patients.”