Ventured over Offa's Dyke today to meet Tom Taylor, Chief Exec of the Shrewsbury and Telford Healthcare Trust. He's a blunt speaking man. Doesn't mince his words. Recently, he told a Westminster Select Committee that his Trust is £2 million down annually, because its paid less to treat Welsh patients than its paid to treat English patients. He still wants to treat them though, which is more than you can say for the Healthcare Trust in Bristol. Chatham House rules apply.
But some things are on the record. When I first met Tom, around three years ago, the Trust was a basket case. Debts around £35 million, and a 'must be repaid' loan from the Department of Health. Looked impossible, but Tom Taylor, with the help of others, has turned it around. £4.0 million repayment last year and on schedule for debt wipe out in two years time. It even looks as if the 'basket case' could be a Foundation Trust in the very near future. The Royal Shrewsbury is 'our' local DGH, as it is for all the people of Montgomeryshire.
Different picture in Powys, where I live. Debts are running away, and all of the local Community Hospitals have been deemed to be clinically unsafe (or some similar description). Its a financial disaster. It seems a pity to me that there is not some way of transporting the management expertise and financial discipline that's done the business in Shropshire, over the border into Powys. Should add that I have no criticism of the newly installed executive bosses at Powys LHB, whom I hear good things about.
And our discussions today really highlight the utterly appalling performance of the Assembly Government regarding renal dialysis. When I first discussed the issue with Tom Taylor three years ago, there was a base unit at Shrewsbury, and because of increasing demand, the intention was to create 6 bed satellite units at Welshpool and Telford. Well Telford was built, and because nothing happened in Wales, it was decided to increase Telford to a 20 bed satellite unit - and now that's been built as well, and opened. And Welshpool? You've guessed it. Still nothing. If there is one failure that has undermined confidence in the National Assembly in my part of Wales, it is this. The cost would be about £2 million, less than 10% of the annual cost of free prescriptions. Frankly, it brings shame on the Assembly Government.