May I take this opportunity of wishing everyone a happy, safe and successful New Year, acknowledging the challenges we all continue to face.

Hopefully the Covid 19 virus and its mutations will shortly become something of the past as the vaccination programme rapidly progresses.

REACH together with Alex Chalk Cheltenham’s MP, were pleased to receive an unequivocal undertaking last year from our local NHS Trust, that Cheltenham’s A&E Type 1 department would be reinstated once the Covid epidemic had abated. It is believed that this should take place at some point later this year, the sooner the better for the residents of North and East Gloucestershire.

Meanwhile, would you believe that our NHS Trust insists on expending much time and energy in bringing forward its ’Fit For the Future’ programme at this most critical point in time; following a process which REACH believes is flawed.

How on earth can major decisions sensibly be made in the middle of a Covid crisis downgrading Cheltenham’s hospital when the ‘Fit For the Future’ process does not address the current or future pandemics, amongst other issues. It is difficult to understand the Trust’s objectives from its current literature, hence the reason for REACH producing its own simplified survey, which we shortly be sharing the results of.

In essence the Trust wishes to substantially reduce the facilities at Cheltenham and move these to Gloucester. This is despite the fact that Gloucester Hospital is far removed from having adequate medical facilities to service Gloucestershire’s 650,000 residents.

It is also a fact that we have a mighty long way to go before we receive adequate clarity and transparency from our local NHS Trust.

Fortunately for us the Trust’s frontline staff continue despite the many pressures to give their all and for which we are most grateful indeed. Our thanks and appreciation go to each and every one of them.

Thank you for your support to date. Please know that 2021 is a most critical year for the continuation of Cheltenham’s hospital as we have known it.

With very best wishes.

Michael Ratcliffe