Is new pilot another step towards the closure of Cheltenham’s A & E?

Liberal Democrats have once again raised concerns over the future of Cheltenham hospital as a new NHS pilot will see patients moved to Gloucester.

A letter circulated by Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust gives details of service changes over the coming months as part of a winter plan. From October 2017 to March 2018, all orthopaedic acute and trauma patients requiring admission or surgical intervention will be moved from Cheltenham General Hospital to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Health and Communities, Cllr Iain Dobie (Leckhampton and Warden Hill) said:

“We’ve already seen Cheltenham’s A & E reduced at night between 8pm and 8am from a full doctor-led service to a restricted nurse-led operation in 2013. Martin Horwood MP and Liberal Democrat councillors opposed this permanent downgrading  at the time. In this latest move, the day time service is now being cut back at Cheltenham A&E.

“People turning up in pain with a broken leg or arm which needs an immediate operation, or someone with a broken hip which demands time in a hospital bed, will now be sent over to Gloucester.

“We are calling for the restoration of a full 24/7 A&E service at Cheltenham General and a properly funded NHS.”

Elected members in other parts of the county are also worried about the impact these changes will have on residents in their own districts, for example, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said:

“This news is troubling. People in the Cotswolds rely on Cheltenham as their nearest hospital so this will mean extra travel for them and their relatives. But what does this really mean for the future of Cheltenham hospital? Slowly but surely services are being whittled away and moved elsewhere. The future of this hospital is at stake – many people value it a lot and it must stay!”

Call for NHS to come clean over future of Cheltenham hospital

A document has been made public which casts serious doubt on the local NHS hospitals trust’s reassuring words about the future of Cheltenham Hospital A&E.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

The document – drawn up by surgeons within Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal Hospitals – was aimed at developing a long-term plan for all the different surgical specialties.  It contains a suggestion that emergency surgery should be taken from Cheltenham and centralised in Gloucester.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for the Cotswolds, has campaigned to reverse the change to Cheltenham’s A&E and is very concerned about the impact of this latest proposal on Cotswolds residents: 

“Some of the proposals are uncontroversial – no-one minds travelling a few miles for planned surgery if that means they get the best treatment.  But there are some services which you need to reach in a hurry and where, in an emergency, every second could counts. So the fact that emergency surgery was included in the list of specialties that might be centralised is worrying. Many people in the Cotswolds rely on Cheltenham as their nearest hospital.

“Major trauma emergency cases –  road accidents for instance – already go to Gloucestershire Royal and the hospital’s trust decided in July that overnight blue light ambulance admissions would also go to Gloucester and not to Cheltenham.  The trust said this was because recruitment problems had made it impossible to fully staff two A&Es 24 hours a day.  But the fear was that all ambulance admissions would soon follow and that Cotswolds patients who go to Cheltenham would be faced with a hospital with little more than a minor injuries unit.  Clinical research shows that, in an emergency like a severe asthma attack, the extra 8 miles would probably make a critical difference in a significant number of cases.

Liberal Democrat councillors on the local Health & Wellbeing Board called for a rethink in the plans earlier this year but were outvoted by Conservative councillors.  Cotswold Tory MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said he would prefer one A&E department and hoped Gloucester’s would be enhanced.

At the time the trust said there were no plans to close Cheltenham’s A&E but the surgeons’ document raises the prospect of emergency surgery being centralised in Gloucester, in which case Cheltenham A&E would have to close.

“We really need to know what the trust management are up to,” said Paul.  “What is the plan?  Are they taking this document seriously and contemplating the closure of Cheltenham’s A&E, even though they told us the opposite?  Are they committed to restoring two full A&E departments if they can? Or are they going to revive the old plan for one new hospital half way between Cheltenham and Gloucester?

“We need a well-informed but open debate, including Cotswolds residents, as soon as possible.”

Dire figures show ambulances missing 999 targets

Latest figures for ambulance response times in the Cotswolds show targets being missed ‘spectacularly’ according to Paul Hodgkinson.

Ambulance

Data presented to a recent Health Scrutiny committee shows that ambulances have missed targets for responding to patients in every category.

For life threatening calls, the national target is for 75% of patients to be responded to within specified times. In the Cotswolds that figure for 2013 is as low as 46%. Nearby towns like Cheltenham have higher response times in every category assessed.

The information has shocked Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate Paul Hodgkinson who feels the Cotswolds has been losing out to other parts of the West:

“These latest figures are deeply worrying. They show that the Cotswolds has the worst ambulance response times in the entire Western region. Every performance target for our area has been missed and often spectacularly. No other district has a worse record so far this year.

“Coming off the back of reduced A&E opening times at Cheltenham hospital, this is another blow for health services in the Cotswolds. I am appalled that the performance is so poor compared to other areas.

“In a large rural area there will always be more time taken to get to a patient but this surely has to be factored into the service. In neighbouring Cheltenham and Gloucester response times are twice as good in some categories.

“My question for the ambulance bosses is – how are you going to improve these alarming statistics and provide the kind of service Cotswolds residents deserve?”

Now Cllr Hodgkinson, who represents Bourton and Northleach on Gloucestershire County Council, has written to Great Western Ambulance Service, asking how the service will be improved for residents.

“People in the Cotswolds need to be reassured that these targets will be hit in future and that they aren’t seen as the poor relations of other towns and cities.”

 

Dismay at A&E closure

A decision to close Cheltenham’s A&E unit to emergency cases overnight has led to dismay in the Cotswolds.

At a meeting held last week at the NHS Foundation Trust in Brockworth, the clinical commissioning group governing body voted to restrict the hospital’s A&E admissions between the hours of 8pm and 8am. From August, patients with a critical illness who need treatment from emergency medicine doctors will need to go to Gloucester Royal Hospital.

The proposals were consulted on between February and May this year. However, few people locally have been aware of this.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (right) next to Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood, protesting against the A&E closure

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, CDC Lib Dem Leader spoke after the decision was made, “I’m dismayed by the decision. How many Cotswolds residents were aware of this proposal? I was only made aware recently and it will impact in a big way on the Cotswolds – particularly to the north, east and south east of Cheltenham. “

“The proposal may lead to higher mortality rates – a study undertaken previously stated that mortality rates rise by 1% for every extra 10kms travelled.”

“There may be increased waiting  times at Gloucester Hospital.”

“For a large chunk of the Cotswolds, Cheltenham hospital is the nearest and most direct place to go to for emergency treatment. This decision was made by unelected people in the face of opposition from the Cheltenham MP and thousands of residents.”

“24/7 A&E facilities are vital for the areas surrounding Cheltenham.”