Last week I attended the public meeting in Ludlow, where campaigners from the town and surrounding area met to express their support for efforts to protect services at Ludlow Hospital. There was powerful testimony from those present, and a clear commitment to retaining and building upon the health services currently provided in our NHS community hospitals in the south of the county.
The backdrop to the meeting was Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s review of some of the important services provided in community hospitals in Ludlow and other market towns in the county. As was heard at the meeting, there is considerable concern locally that Shropshire CCG is not listening to patients or local GPs here, and are not aware of the importance of Ludlow Hospital to the community.
So it was a curious decision by organisers to decline the offer of Shropshire CCG leaders to come to the meeting. Several hundred people turned up, with speakers having to go outside to address those who could not fit into the jam-packed Methodist Hall. Had NHS bosses been allowed to attend, this would have been a strong demonstration of the strength of local feeling – and the personal stories, so powerfully told, could have helped inform the county wide review into some key services in our community hospitals, which closed the day after the meeting (10th November).
Though I wasn’t on the panel, I was pleased to be asked to speak, to address some of the concerns raised, such as misapprehensions about the consequences of combining administrative bases for district nurses in Craven Arms and health visitors with school nurses in Ludlow.
I remain steadfast in my commitment to seeing quality accessible and sustainable healthcare for Ludlow and the surrounding area – and sometimes that means embracing change, like new technology and new models of care. I do not want or expect to see Ludlow Hospital close, but I do want to see more services available both there and in other health settings closer to people’s homes which will help to meet their health needs in an accessible way.
I am hopeful the Future Fit public consultation will get under way shortly, which will give all of us who care about acute and community health services in Shropshire the chance to make our views clear in a formal process.
There is clear value in a concerted campaign to protect and secure enhanced local health services. But to succeed local people and campaigners must engage with local NHS leaders who make decisions affecting provision here in Shropshire.