FEARS that Mid Wales patients could be left in “life and death” situations have been voiced ahead of crunch talks on the future of Shropshire’s hospitals.
The Future Fit programme to restructure services at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) aims to establish one site for emergency, critical and maternity care, while the other would house the majority of planned procedures.
The Future Fit Programme Board has recommended that the preferred option would be to retain A&E and maternity services at Shrewsbury, which would mean much easier and faster access for Mid Wales patients.
This preferred option was set to be voted on at a Joint Committee meeting between the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) representing both hospitals at a meeting in Shrewsbury on Thursday night.
Now the chair of Newtown Health Forum, Newtown East County Councillor Joy Jones, is urging Powys residents to make sure their voices do not go unheard.
She said: “The people of Telford are standing very strong to keep their A&E and maternity services, they are fighting very hard to hang onto those, and we are not.
“It’s no good crying once it’s gone. We need to fight to keep those services close.
“In this area we have got people who don’t have transport and we don’t have a lot of public transport.
“We have got people who are struggling and not able to be with their loved ones. It’s wrong.
“People living on benefits or low incomes are expected to get to these hospitals, but where does the money come from?”
The possibility of A&E being located in Telford has caused great concern in Mid Wales, and Cllr Jones has warned lives could be at risk if this were to become the reality.
She said: “It’s not until the day that you need that service that you realise it’s a long way away.
“I just wish people could realise we don’t have other options. If we lose the resources and they are moved further away it could end up being life and death.”
Last week Cllr Jones put out a challenge to Shropshire’s health bosses to meet her for cuppa in Newtown – and to get there by public transport – to get a better idea of the distance and time involved.
She set up at Express Cafe in the town centre on Thursday and waited, but was left dismayed when no-one joined her.
“It was gutting,” she said. “Someone rang me the day before and said all their diaries were full and they would not be able to go, but we decided to go anyway in case anybody did turn up.
“It was very important for them that they did, so that when they have their vote they understand our difficulty.”
A Future Fit spokesperson told the County Times: “There are three important meetings taking place this week that have a direct bearing on Future Fit. This I believe is why this week was not a good week to discuss with the council.”
Cllr Jones experienced the long journey to Telford for herself last month when her new grandson, Korey, was born.
She said: “It wasn’t an emergency but I wanted to be with my daughter and my new baby grandson. The traffic was unbearable and it took me an hour-and-a-half.
“My daughter felt isolated and alone, and at that moment I felt desperate because I just couldn’t get there fast enough.”
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Cllr Jones said it was vital that the Joint Committee voted in favour of the preferred option.
She said: “The real hope and need is that they go for the option that has been decided at the moment.
“We need them to keep as many services as they can in Shrewsbury.”
Cllr Jones and other members of Newtown Health Forum were planning to attend the Joint Committee meeting.
One thing they hoped to ask those making the decisions that have such an impact on Mid Wales – “When was the last you ventured over the border into Powys?”
See full story in the County Times