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Future Fit finance a real mess

Readers' letters | Published:

There are plenty of bones to pick at in Daniel Kawczynski’s recent Future Fit letter to the editor but, for the purposes of this response, I will focus on the funding of Future Fit and our health services more generally.

Mr Kawczynski doesn’t mention that the £312 million set aside by the former Chancellor for the FF hospital reconfiguration is not a central government grant. It’s a combination of loans, plus a sum from the sale of assets. The most worrying part of the proposed funding is a significant sum borrowed through ‘Project Phoenix’, the latest form of Private Finance Initiative or PF2. Such deals have beggared other hospital trusts in recent years.

Presumably Mr Kawczynski is happy for this very questionable form of finance to bleed our two local hospitals dry, even when SaTH expects to make cuts of £18.9m this year and over £48m by 2023/4. SaTH is already in an escalating financial crisis without any other highly dubious loan costs to service. Attempting to pay back a loan at very considerable interest rates over future decades will do nothing to improve patient care or the recruitment and retention of staff if Future Fit goes ahead.

As for the oft-repeated claim that £312m is the ‘biggest public sector investment into Shropshire in living memory’, it’s ludicrous when the cost of anything, at any time is relative!

Rather than publicly browbeating Telford and Wrekin Council for supporting the scrutiny the Independent Review Panel will rightly bring to bear on the FF decision, the council should be applauded for the clinical and financial concerns it raises for review.

Mr Kawczynski calls it ‘interfering for political reasons’ as though they’re behaving inappropriately. Isn’t that their job? Isn’t that their public duty? Isn’t that what we elect local councillors to do? Better they raise this now than wait to find too late that a huge financial burden has been incurred or a clinical miscalculation has been made.

The patients of the soon-to-be closed Whitehall Medical Practice in Shrewsbury can tell us all about cuts to health services and where that leads.

The Conservative-LibDem coalition government and subsequent Conservative governments have left the NHS with woefully inadequate budgets for almost a decade now, and they’re even more woeful locally.

Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin will be short-changed this year alone to the tune of £17m against the NHS England budget average. That year-on-year paucity of funding is what Daniel Kawczynski should really have battled against since he became our MP. He has spectacularly failed local people in this regard. Instead, he tries to distract us by spending his efforts publicly casting around for others to blame.

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Jane Asterley Berry, Shrewsbury

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