Election 2019

Confusion remains over Telford A&E after PM's pledge

Boris Johnson
Image caption Prime Minister Boris Johnson said A&E would remain open in Telford

Confusion surrounds the future of A&E in Telford after the prime minister pledged the service would remain open.

It was confirmed last month that under restructuring, Shrewsbury would serve as Shropshire's emergency care centre, with provision in Telford becoming a so-called A&E Local instead.

That, critics say, amounts to a service downgrade for the town.

The health secretary said Boris Johnson's comments were not contradictory.

Confirming there had been no change locally to the reorganisation project that he green-lit, Matt Hancock said Mr Johnson's words in fact underscored the plans.

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.

Since the announced overhaul of emergency care at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital, detail on what is meant by A&E Local has been scarce.

Earlier this month the government said Princess Royal would have consultant-led emergency care during "core hours".

It is still unclear what that would look like in practice, but campaigners have called it a part-time service that would limit the amount of emergency conditions Telford could deal with.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the prime minster's words back rather than contradict plans

Analysis: Joanne Gallacher - BBC Radio Shropshire political correspondent

When is a downgrade not a downgrade? When the prime minister gets involved it would seem.

At the Conservative Party's manifesto launch in Telford on Sunday, Boris Johnson promised that A&E at the Princess Royal would remain open. For the briefest of moments, people thought there'd be no change in Shropshire - was this the PM supporting Labour's policy to keep a 24/7 fully functioning A&E centre at both Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals?

No, it wasn't.

Moments later, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told journalists his plans for restructure stayed the same.

As for an A&E Local's hours of operation, Lucy Allan, the Conservative candidate for Telford, says it'll be open 12 hours a day. The boss of the county's Clinical Commissioning Groups Dave Evans imagines a minimum of eight hours.

I asked him whether A&E Local would be a fully-staffed, 24/7 emergency centre as per current provision. He said "no", adding: "It would be an A&E Local for part of the day, and overnight would essentially be an Urgent Care Centre."

So what is an Urgent Care Centre?

Health bosses say six out of 10 people who currently attend the A&E will still go there to access help. The walking wounded; people needing x-rays for broken bones and sprains; minor injuries which aren't life threatening - all can be dealt with there.

Running alongside it will be the A&E Local. What we don't know is what types of illnesses and conditions people will be treated for - it definitely won't be an all-singing, all-dancing A&E.

So there will be a change in the service and the care provided. And despite what politicians, locally and nationally, including the PM say, this is still a downgrade.

At Sunday's Conservative Party manifesto launch, Mr Johnson said "I know that we have kept the A&E open and we will ensure that is open and I will absolutely insist on that".

Mr Hancock said the prime minister's comments were "backing the decision that we made, and that I published, just under a month ago".

Image copyright Press Association / Rui Vieira
Image caption Shrewsbury's hospital is to be the county's main emergency care centre

There are three general election candidates standing in Telford.

Tory candidate Lucy Allan said she was "pleased and proud" with "progress" over health provision in the town.

But Labour candidate Katrina Gilman said: "To say you are saving [A&E] implies keeping as it is, not half saving it, which is ultimately what is happening."

Shana Roberts, Liberal Democrat, added: "Ultimately we are being short-changed and have to compromise on the level of health care we are receiving."

The BBC webpage for the constituency can be found here.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites