Group shares fears for future of A&E
NHS says no decisions have been made
ACAMPAIGN group claims Cheltenham General Hospital’s Accident & Emergency facility could become like a GPS’ practice.
Saying it was “gravely concerned” about possible changes that could be made to the town’s A&E department, the Restoring Emergency and Accident at Cheltenham General Hospital group issued a statement.
It was responding to the NHS in Gloucestershire launching an engagement exercise with the public this summer and autumn, through its Fit for the Future document.
It says it is an invitation to people across the county to engage in a conversation about future services at Cheltenham General Hospital and Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and how urgent care services can best be delivered across the county.
While the NHS insists no decisions have been made, and says full public consultation could happen next year, some people fear the A&E at Cheltenham will be further downgraded.
REACH said its ‘experts’ had created a Fit for the Future Explained document that it believed exposed the true intent of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both hospitals.
REACH’S spokesman Chris Hickey said: “We have gone through their document in detail and outlined what we consider to be the real meaning that underlies their highly crafted and carefully chosen words.
“Over recent days and weeks the NHS trust has been going to great lengths to stress that no decision has been made to shut A&E at Cheltenham, whereas it is crystal clear to us that they intend to shut the existing facility and replace it with an Urgent Care Centre.
“This centre would be manned by GPS as opposed to specialist emergency doctors and nurses.
“Such a facility would be more alike your local doctors’ practice where you will need an appointment, than it would an A&E department.
““We hope that the general public will find this document useful and that it will enable them to participate in the current engagement process in a more informed manner.”
He added that REACH would shortly urge the public to complete a survey based on its document and it would share the results with the trust.
An NHS spokesman said recent claims about downgrading Cheltenham’s A&E were inaccurate and misleading and that no decisions had been made about the future range of urgent and emergency care services in the county, including those at Cheltenham General Hospital.
Professor Mark Pietroni, the trust’s director of safety and medical director, said: “No plans have been drawn up to close A&E in Cheltenham and the current engagement is an opportunity for people to have their say on how best to deliver outstanding specialist hospital care in the future, including the nature of local A&E services.
“One idea for discussion is to create a Centre of Excellence for Emergency Care in Gloucestershire, treating critical life and limb threatening conditions.
“It would be one way of ensuring scarce specialist staff, expertise and facilities were always on hand to get the right treatment started whatever time of day or night and support survival and recovery.
“We see both Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospitals continuing to provide a range of same day, walk in, urgent care services 24 hours a day, seven days a week for local patients.
“Whatever form that ultimately takes, the majority of patients who need urgent hospital care, would continue to access services as they do now.
“This period of engagement is an open dialogue. It’s about discussing ideas and involving local people in developing potential solutions.
“This means that contrary to some reports, no decisions have been made about the future range of urgent and emergency care services in the county, including those at Cheltenham General Hospital.”
Cheltenham General Hospital’s accident and emergency department