HEALTH chiefs have defended a controversial health consultation.

Mayor of Oswestry, Councillor Sandy Best, raises strong concerns in this week’s Advertizer over patient access and nurse recruitment regarding the Future Fit proposals.

But Dr Simon Freeman, accountable officer for NHS Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said that doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, together with GPs and social care professionals, have been involved in developing the proposed new model of hospital care.

He added: “They believe that, by transforming our hospital services in this way, we will make sure that patients receive safe, high quality NHS care in the future. Under either option, most people would continue to go to the same hospital as they do now, but we do understand that travelling to our hospitals is already an issue for some people, especially given the rural nature of our county.”Dr Freeman said that the CGG had set up a travel and transport group to look at the issue in more detail.

“This group, which includes all key transport stakeholders and a group of patient representatives, is working together to review current transport services and identify ways in which travel and transport could be improved across Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and mid Wales,” he added

“We are also very keen to hear the views and experiences of local people about travel and transport, and would encourage people to include this in their survey response.”

Victoria Maher, workforce director at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), said that traditional medical and nursing roles are changing.

She added: “We need to make sure our workforce is sustainable, so we are creating new roles and working hard to support our teams to grow and develop.

“Later this year, the first Nurse Associates will start at our hospitals. This is a new role that will see staff – sourced predominantly from our Health care assistant workforce – trained to fill what are currently some of our registered nurse roles.

“The role is crucial to helping us make our nursing teams sustainable, and also means our staff will benefit from opportunities to grow and develop their careers with us. We plan to grow our nurse associate workforce to over 120 staff over the next five years.