A hospital is set to lose its acute A&E department after a major shakeup of services in Shropshire won the backing of health secretary Matt Hancock.
The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital will be home to the county’s main emergency unit, while existing provision at Telford’s Princess Royal becomes an “urgent care model” instead.
Plans were approved in January before being reviewed by the government at the request of Telford’s council.
One campaigner said she was “appalled”.
Gill George, who had been battling the proposals, also branded the move an “absolutely shocking decision”.
She said: “It’s an expression of total contempt from Matt Hancock to the people of Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin.”
The controversy centres on fears that forcing people to travel further for emergency care will put lives at risk.
Some health bodies, though, have backed the move, with Dr Julian Povey, chair of Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, saying it is “brilliant news” which means “the people of Shropshire are getting a better deal”.
NHS bosses say the changes will ensure services are sustainable for the future.
The move comes under the NHS’s Future Fit programme, which also looks set to make Princess Royal the home of planned care, with Royal Shrewsbury Hospital delivering most women and children’s services.
Mr Hancock’s support was revealed in a letter to the leader of Telford and Wrekin Council which the Labour member shared on Twitter.
Shaun Davies said the decision put “the health and wellbeing of residents at risk”.
He added: “I will be looking at ways in which we can maybe challenge this through the courts. Judicial review is an option.”
In the correspondence, Mr Hancock said reconfigured Telford and its “urgent care model” should “enable as much clinically appropriate care to be delivered at the Princess Royal Hospital as possible”.
He added the model could be delivered through an “A&E Local”.
When asked by BBC Shropshire what “A&E Local” meant, Dr Povey said he didn’t know, adding “I don’t think anyone does”. But he added it would be “very similar to what we’ve designed”.
A spokesperson for the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), which advised Mr Hancock to back the plan, said the overhaul was “in the interests of local people… and should proceed without further delay”.
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