Tag Archive for Shropshire

Shropshire Hospital cuts

I went to a public meeting last night at the Holiday Inn in Telford on the proposed changes to hospital services in Telford.

The main shocker of the night was that David Wright MP not only stayed after the photographers had left but what he said while he was in the meeting actually made sense.

In Shropshire we have two main hospitals – the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford.  In addition to the two general hospitals, there’s the specialist orthopædic hospital at Oswestry and a handful of cottage hospitals.  The RSH and PRH are where all the main hospital services are – A&E, vascular, pædiatrics, maternity, etc.

Shropshire is unusual in having two general hospitals, especially for the relatively small population of the county.  We gave up 10 of our cottage hospitals to get a general hospital built in Telford so it came at a price.  But now the hospitals are running out of money thanks to the British government’s cuts to the English NHS and services can’t be sustained at both hospitals.

A year ago there was a proposal to move services from the PRH to the RSH which were shelved because of the opposition.  It wasn’t the first time moving services from Telford to Shrewsbury was suggested either – whenever money is tight the hospitals trust has always chosen a starting position of keeping all services in Shrewsbury.  This time, however, the proposals are a little more balanced with some services moving from Shrewsbury to Telford and others moving from Telford to Shrewsbury.

If the proposals go ahead, consultant-led maternity services will be moved to Telford rather than Shrewsbury where they are currently provided.  Consultant-led pædiatrics will also move to Telford, reflecting the fact that there are far more children in Telford than Shrewsbury and more social deprivation which leads to poor health in children.  Acute surgery will move to Shrewsbury and both hospitals will retain A&E services.

The hospital at Telford is a much newer building than Shrewsbury and there is a lot more room for expansion at the Telford site.  The RSH was built in the 60’s and parts of the building are structurally unsound according to a report that the hospitals trust have just released.  The report dates from 2007 so cynical types might wonder why the report has only just been released when it backs up their proposals and why the imminent condemnation of parts of the RSH wasn’t a problem a year ago when they wanted to consolidate services in Shrewsbury.  But that doesn’t change the fact that the RSH is structurally unsound in places and there is no money to fix it up (especially not after Gordon Brown took £1bn out of the English NHS’ building fund as one of his final acts as Chancellor).

Telford has the largest population in Shropshire by a considerable margin and the fastest growing population too.  It makes sense to put services where they will be most used and that’s at Telford, especially in the case of maternity and pædiatrics.

The four consultations being held in Shropshire are finished now and the next three are being held in Mid-Wales.  The RSH – and to a lesser extent, the PRH – provide services to patients from Powys where there is no general hospital.  Some of the services the hospitals in Shropshire provide are only sustainable because Powys is in their catchment area and Powys health board pays for patients that are treated in Shropshire but I don’t agree that this entitles people in Powys to a say in how our hospitals are configured.

People in Shrewsbury seem to have latched onto the extra 18 miles Welsh people will have to travel for some services as an argument for keeping all services in Shrewsbury.  From what people who have been to the other public meetings have said, there seems to be an attitude in Shrewsbury that they have an entitlement to keep all services in the town and that any cuts should be made to the PRH which they see as a subordinate hospital to the RSH rather than one half of the same service.  In fact, one very brave man from Shrewsbury announced to the 200 or so people in the room that everything should be moved to Shrewsbury because it’s the county town.  He did make it out in one piece but that’s possibly more to do with the fact he made a sharp exit than the restraint of the people in the room!

I asked a question around the contribution to the running costs of the hospitals from Powys health board.  Whilst the health board pays for treatment of one of their patients, the hospitals cost money whether they’re used or not – how much is Powys health board contributing to the running costs of the hospitals and the reconfiguration of services?  The answer I got from the CEO is that they’re not contributing to the reconfiguration of services but they provide approximately 10% of patients and about 10% of the hospital trust’s income.  What he didn’t mention, though, was that the patients that come to Shrewsbury do so because their treatment is something that can’t be done in a cottage hospital or GP’s surgery – in other words, they are the expensive treatments.  The current CEO’s predecessor told the Shropshire Star that treating Welsh patients costs the hospitals £2m per year because Powys health board doesn’t pay the going rate for treatment so unless something has changed since 2008, he misled the meeting last night.

The question that got the loudest applause was when one lady – a former nurse – stood up and asked why we are taking Mid-Wales into account when they get a lot more money than we do in England.

Outside the meeting a group of communists were handing out “no more cuts” trades union propaganda.  I handed mine back and reminded them we don’t have any money.  The man walking past me at the time was slightly less polite to them.

In an ideal world we would retain a full range of services at both hospitals but there isn’t enough money to pay for them so until the Brits stop using our money to subsidise the celts, we have to accept that there will be cutbacks to our services in England and this proposal – despite being far from ideal – is the best solution for the whole county.

Shropshire Council traffic officers lying to councillors

The Department for Transport issues guidelines on village speed limits for local authorities in England.  It defines a village as a settlement with a minimum of 20 properties with a frontage on a 600m length of road.  If it doesn’t meet those criteria it isn’t a village.  Their guidelines also say that speed checks should be done and the speed limit should be set at or above the mean average speed.

The guidelines are, unusually for a British government department, quite sensible.  They are the product of the distilled wisdom of experts from the DfT, motorist groups and the police.  There’s no point classifying a settlement with 20 houses spread out over a 2 mile radius as a village because it clearly isn’t.  And there is no point putting in a speed limit that tens of thousands of drivers think is too slow because it will be ignored and the police won’t be able to enforce it.

But this doesn’t seem to have occurred to the highways people at Shropshire Council who have gold plated the DfT’s guidelines and define a village as 20 houses in a settlement, regardless of whether they front onto the road or not and have a policy of applying a speed limit at or below the mean average speed.  They also ignore completely the guidance put in on behalf of the police that says if the speed limit is being dropped below the mean average speed that engineering solutions must be put in place to force drivers to reduce their speed because the police won’t be able to police it.

Now all this is well and good as long as the council are honest about it but they aren’t.  When objections are made to these spurious speed limit reductions, they are considered by the parish council for the “village” in question.  A traffic officer for the council submits a report to councillors countering the objections but the traffic officers in Shropshire Council are lying to the councillors in their reports to cover up the fact that the “village” they are talking about isn’t actually a village – a pretty fundamental consideration when they are debating a proposal under the Village Speed Limit initiative.

Rather than repeat myself, here is the complaint I have sent tonight to one of the traffic officers who has been lying to councillors:

Dear Hugh,

I am writing to you as the responsible officer on a number of reports that have been given to councils in Shropshire considering objections to proposals to reduce speed limits in villages in the county.

In these reports you incorrectly assert that Shropshire Council’s definition of a village is the same as the Department for Transport’s definition of a village and in doing so you are misleading the councillors considering the objections and influencing their decision by providing a false statement.

The wording used is:

The Shropshire Council Village Speed Limits Policy and the Department for Transport Circular both share this same village definition of the number of houses on one or both sides of the road.
This is not correct.  The DfT defines a village as a 600m stretch of road with 20 or more properties with a frontage on the road whereas Shropshire Council’s policy requires only 20 properties in the settlement.  In the cases of Brockton, Leighton, Farley and Wall Under Haywood, for example, there are less than 20 properties with a frontage on the roads in question.  There are 20 or more properties in the settlement with frontages on other roads that may or may not feed into the road which is being considered for a reduced speed limit but this does not comply with the DfT’s definition of a village.

Whether or not a settlement qualifies as a village is pretty fundamental when considering a speed limit reduction under the Village Speed Limit initiative.  None of these settlements meet the DfT criteria of a village and should not be considered under the Village Speed Limit initiative.  Because of your false statement, the objections relating to the proposals have not been considered fairly.

Please advise what procedures are in place for the reconsideration of objections made to the proposed speed limit reductions in light of the false information given to the councils involved and what steps will be taken to ensure that councillors are not lied to in this respect in future.



Explosion in Shrewsbury

According to BBC Radio Shropshire, there has been an explosion in Shrewsbury town centre.

The emergency services aren’t giving much information but there have been injuries.  Three people have been sent to the nearby Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and one has been airlifted to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.  Three air ambulances and ten land ambulances are involved in the emergency.

Twitter is showing what a fantastic real-time news source it is.  According to people on Twitter it’s a gas explosion near Rowley’s Mansion, which seems to be backed up by the presence of a Transco van.

There’s a webcam image here from the Theatre Severn towards the site of the explosion.  Another webcam is located roughly opposite the site and pointed towards the Welsh Bridge and Theatre Severn.

An empty building has been destroyed by the explosion on the corner of Mardol Quay and Bridge Street – one of the busiest junctions in Shrewsbury.  The explosion has closed Frankwell, the Welsh Bridge, Riverside, Bridge Street and the streets in between.  The town centre is effectively closed and should be avoided.  The explosion was in a flat above an empty shop between Shrewsbury Hotel and a photo studio.

The explosion was strong enough to send rubble over the river, damaging the Theatre Severn.  It’s roughly double the distance shown from this webcam.

The BBC News channel was saying earlier that a person was trapped inside the collapsed building but that appears not to have been the case.


Below is a map showing where the explosion took place and some pictures of the site. Theatre Severn and the Sixth Form College are also shown on the map – both were damaged by debris from the explosion.

For more pictures, check out this BBC “In pictures” page.

Who cares?

Yesterday was National Carers Day and BBC Radio Shropshire marked it with features throughout the day.

One of the features was about an announcement of a new scheme for elderly carers.  More money and support is to be given to elderly carers who need their partners to have respite care.  This annoyed me.

My father-in-law has a rare degenerative disease called superficial siderosis.  As of 2006, there were only 270 reported cases of superficial siderosis and nobody knows what the long term prognosis is other than it won’t get any better.

So how does it feel to be a carer for someone who is disabled, has to be pushed around outside in a wheelchair, is deaf, has no short-term memory and doesn’t feel pain?  My mother-in-law is my father-in-law’s full time carer and it’s pretty damn stressful, not to mention tiring.

My father-in-law used to get respite care in Telford but the care home decided – understandably – that they would rather rent out the only room they had for middle aged disabled people to the council for OAPs for £600 a week rather than leave it empty for 3 weeks a month.  But as this was the only room of its kind in the borough (population 160,000) this means that my father-in-law now has to go to Oswestry, on the Welsh border, for respite.

Telford & Wrekin Council isn’t entirely to blame but they certainly aren’t blameless.  They haven’t invested in respite care for middle aged people but it wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t for bloody stupid British government regulations that insist on care homes in England segregating their buildings based on age groups.

My father-in-law was, until recently, taken to the gym for an hour and a half every week by the council’s Social Inclusion Team.  But a few weeks ago they decided that they wanted paying £38 every time they took him.  They can’t afford it so the council offered to do it for £17 a time.  They still can’t afford it (their household income consists of disability living allowance, carers allowance and a wage for a few hours of work that my mother-in-law does) so they won’t take him.

He goes to a day care centre for a few hours a couple of days a week where they do group activities – it’s the only chance he gets to socialise with people outside of the familiy.  It costs £9.50 each time he goes but it’s been capped by the British government for years.  The cap is being lifted next year so the price will be going up to an unknown amount.  People who pay privately to go to the day care centre pay £26 a time – if it goes up to £26 he won’t be able to go there either.

If you are young or past pensionable age there are plenty of services available.  I don’t imagine there are enough services to satisfy everybody’s needs but the services available to middle aged people are so sparse that they might as well not exist.

Me and the mother-in-law were interview by BBC Radio Shropshire about it yesterday and it was on the radio this morning.  Click here to get the Eric Smith show on the iPlayer.  Skip forward to 06:40 to hear the mother-in-law talking to the reporter and 59:44 for my comments in the news.