A consultation into a shake-up of emergency care across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin received more than 16,500 responses, health chiefs have revealed.

The 16-week Future Fit consultation ended at midnight on Tuesday, September 11.

Phil Evans, from Telford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), confirmed 16,559 responses had been received by the end of Wednesday.

He said the number would increase slightly as further freepost responses arrived.

The consultation asked members of the public for their views on proposals to create a single emergency department at either the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.

The other would be the base for planned care, while both hospitals would have urgent care centres for non-emergency treatment.

Mr Evans told members of Shropshire Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board it was one of the largest response rates to a health consultation in recent times.

He continued: “Normally the average response is one per cent of the population.

“A consultation in Dorset saw two per cent, but this will be more than that.”

The consultation was previously criticised after it was revealed at the half-way point that less than one per cent of the 500,000 population served by both hospitals had taken part.

However, health chiefs said they expected a “spike” towards the end.

Mr Evans told the meeting that because of the number of responses the time to go through them by an independent company would take six to eight weeks and not four to six weeks as previously anticipated.

But he added measures have been put in place to cope.

Following the review of the responses a draft report will be received by the Shropshire, and Telford & Wrekin CCGs later in the year before a joint meeting is held to make a final decision in early 2019.

Mr Evans added: “It is quite a tight timescale and it all depends on how long it takes to go through the responses and for the report to be finalised and submitted.

“We were expecting a large number of responses but we didn’t expect that many.”

Councillor Lee Chapman, portfolio holder for health, said: “It is really encouraging that there have been such a huge number of responses.

“We have been calling long and hard to make sure the consultation has a good response and this news is really encouraging.”