Formal consultation on the Future Fit programme to improve hospital and community services across Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin and mid Wales will begin after the general election next year, it was confirmed today.
The decision was taken when the clinically-led Future Fit Board, representing a coalition of leading healthcare organisations, met this afternoon.
Consultation had originally been planned to start in January 2015. However a number of considerations have led to today’s decision to put this back until summer next year.
David Evans, Future Fit Joint Chair and Accountable Officer for Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said:
Everyone involved with Future Fit has been struck by the scale and complexity of the project. It is not something we can rush. By delaying consultation it will give extra time to work on other features of the programme, including financial and clinical modelling, technical analysis and feasibility studies. These will all feed into the consultation so that it is as meaningful and informative as we can possibly make it.
The senior clinicians involved in the programme agreed today that the revised timing gives us a far more realistic target, and that is backed by the advice we have received from NHS England.
The fact that there will be a General Election in May 2015 is a significant but secondary factor in the decision.
The law governing election periods places restrictions on consultation and publicity that can take place during them. As Parliament will dissolve on March 30 2015, consultation activity would have to cease or be severely restricted from that date until polling closed on May 7.
Dr Caron Morton, the programme’s other Joint Chair and Accountable Officer for Shropshire CCG said: “The decision to delay consultation until summer next year does not mean that patients and members of the public are going to be frozen out of the Future Fit process for 12 months.
“Our ambition is to create excellent clinical services where patients understand clearly when and where they can get the most appropriate treatment. This is not something they have at the moment, and we cannot design the best services for patients without their direct input.
“There is an active engagement programme that will help shape the proposals that will eventually go out to consultation. We have an ethical and legal duty to involve all stakeholders throughout the process, with Healthwatch Shropshire and Healthwatch Telford and Wrekin and Montgomeryshire Community Health Council represented on the programme board to ensure that the voice of patients is heard.”
Carole Hall, Chair of Healthwatch Shropshire, said: "FutureFit is an important programme of change that will affect the health and well-being of all Shropshire residents over time and it is important that a good balance is achieved between making progress in a timely way but still taking the time to design the optimum possible clinical service model.
There has been patient representation through Healthwatch, the Shropshire Patients Group and other interest groups, particularly in the clinical design work stream and its sub-groups. Patient, and particularly public, engagement is still at a very early stage but we hope good progress will be made over the next few months to ensure that the wider public voice is heard”.
More information can be found on the NHS FutureFit website