28 September 2017 (Updated 21 January 2018)

The suspension of Neurology services to new referrals at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) continues.

The service was suspended in March 2017 to new referrals for an initial period of six months, as it was experiencing some difficulties in managing demand.

The Trust currently has two Consultant Neurologists supported by one Locum. The national average is one Neurologist per 80,000 people, which would equate to six Neurologists for the population of Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and mid Wales that SaTH serves.

Despite the Trust’s best efforts, it has so far been unable to secure additional full-time or Locum capacity.

Following discussions between SaTH, the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin, and Powys Teaching Health Board, a decision was made to extend the suspension. Existing patients awaiting follow-up appointments or treatments are not affected.

Carol McInnes, Assistant Chief Operating Officer for Unscheduled Care at SaTH, said: “This extension to the suspension of Neurology Services to new referrals is not a decision we have taken lightly. The service remains under considerable pressure due to workforce constraints. This is purely a short-term move whilst alternative options are developed.  The operational team is fully committed to developing a sustainable solution for the service. I would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause people.”

Dr Julian Povey, Chair of Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The extension of the closure of the Neurology Service at SATH is regrettable and we recognise the impact this has on patients. The CCG is committed to providing a sustainable Neurology service in Shropshire and is working with the SaTH, and other providers, on a solution. In the meantime new patients referred by a GP will be provided, by the Referral Assessment Service, with a choice of other providers who have appointments available. If you are referred by a hospital consultant they will advise patients about alternative providers.”

Dr Jo Leahy, Clinical Chair of Telford and Wrekin CCG, said: “We recognise the impact of the temporary suspension of Neurology services to Telford and Wrekin patients and are working closely with SaTH to ensure a local solution is implemented as soon as possible. The CCG would like to reassure local patients that any new referrals to Neurology will be supported by the Telford Referral and Quality Service (TRAQS). The TRAQS team will be on hand to offer advice and guidance to patients being referred for Neurology services and will help those patients to find an appointment within the region as soon as possible.”       

During the period of suspension of new referrals, the Trust and commissioners have undertaken work relating to the number and need of referrals into Neurology services; and contacted other providers across the West Midlands to determine whether they have capacity to support the service, or work with commissioners to develop new models of care.

TDiscussions with commissioners have highlighted the need for further options to be developed to support those diagnosed with long term neurological conditions.

As these conversations continue, the service at the Trust will remain closed to new referrals. This is to ensure that those patients already cared for by SaTH can continue to receive care.

To help meet the current demand for referrals, the two CCGs and Powys Teaching Health Board have commissioned The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust to provide this service for new patients. Patients in England can continue to exercise their right to choice and choose providers in other areas of the West Midlands/country.