CHANGES to the way that people in Ludlow and south Shropshire have been treated has been slammed as another step in the privatisation of the National Health Service.

Peter Corfield, chairman of the Ludlow Hospital League of Friends and Gill George who leads the Save Our NHS in Shropshire Group are unhappy that from later in the year people needing help for other than 999 emergencies will have to call the national 111 service.

However, Ludlow MP and former Health Minister Philip Dunne believes that moving to a single number makes sense.

“So the private sector has now total control over 111 services, and CareUK has the lion’s share of this and many other NHS services,” said Peter Corfield.

“Shropdoc on the other hand is a service provided by our well-qualified, highly professional and highly experienced GPs - they are familiar with the patch, the people and the pattern of healthcare problems.

He said that Shropdoc proved highly effective when an earlier scheme to move to 111 failed.

“Over 60 per cent of callers to Shropdoc speak to a clinician - and only 2 per cent of triaged calls are sent to A&E.

“The intervention of Shropdoc and the creation of Shropdoc bases at Shrewsbury and Telford DGHs resulted in a massive drop in A&E cases.

“What can possibly replace this local service which is in the top 2 per cent of out-of-hours GP provision? Is it to be under qualified, inexperienced and overtired call handlers whose default pathway is to dump callers onto A&E?”

Peter Corfield believes that the quality of the service will be badly diminished.

“It is abundantly clear that, having enjoyed a first class, indeed Rolls Royce service our rural communities are likely to be thrown to the wolves as Whitehall dumbs down to a level that is deemed affordable to those in Whitehall who believe that Hyde Park epitomises rural England,” he added.

“Our GPs control about 90 per cent of our healthcare needs yet see little or no recognition of their attempts to improve local healthcare by initiatives, such as Shropdoc.”

Gill George believes that the change is a further example of the NHS not listening to local needs.

“We’re seeing an extraordinarily valuable service being destroyed, step by step,” she said.

Ms George said that health bosses are simply not listening to the concerns of people.