Over the winter, REACH has continued to campaign for the long-term future of Cheltenham General Hospital. The public consultation on the NHS “Fit for the Future” proposals closed in December. We are concerned that the proposals to centralise all emergencies and complex surgery in Gloucester would lead to the following:
- Cheltenham General will lose its “critical mass” of resident surgeons and physicians, and will no longer be a true General Hospital. This critical mass of resident specialist doctors is needed to support Cheltenham’s A&E Dept in the long term.
- The nationally renowned Cheltenham intensive care unit would be criminally underused, if all emergencies and complex surgery were centralised in Gloucester.
- Hospital acquired COVID infection can have devastating consequences for patients having surgery. National guidance says that planned surgery should be performed on a COVID-free site (Cheltenham). Centralising the most complex surgical patients in the COVID receiving hospital at Gloucester is irrational, when COVID is likely to be a long-term problem.
REACH presented its concerns about the consultation process to the Citizens Jury in January. We believe that crucial information about the changes was withheld from the public consultation brochures. We were also concerned about the validity of running a consultation during the COVID pandemic. The Jurors agreed with our assessment.
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHSFT Board meets in March, when it will make a decision about these proposals. REACH has written to indicate our concerns about improper process during the public consultation. Clearly, we hope that the local NHS sees sense and reconsiders its plans. However, REACH may need to consider legal action as a last resort, and we hope that you would support us if this were needed.