Restore Emergency at Cheltenham General Hospital (REACH) have published the results of their “Fit for the Future” survey. The REACH survey was launched in November last year. It was created following concerns that the One Gloucestershire survey, had been constructed in such a manner that the results could be used to justify a decision, which respondents would not have supported. The full results of the REACH survey can be VIEWED HERE and will be shared with One Gloucestershire. Interim findings have also already been shared with One Gloucestershire and they have been incorporated into their report on the public consultation.

Michael Ratcliffe MBE, Chairman of REACH commented:

“We launched our own survey, to gather the real preferences of those local people in Gloucestershire and surrounding areas, who will be affected by these Fit for the Future proposals. May we thank everybody who took the time and trouble to respond to our survey.

We are also strongly questioning the timing of this One Gloucestershire consultation and whether the findings therefore will be valid. People are rightly worried about their health, that of their family and friends and gravely concerned at how this will impact upon them financially, especially those who have lost jobs or are unable to work. Having the time to understand and take on board these complex issues would be challenging at the best of times, let alone now.

Whilst we wrestle with these issues and the proposals, we must not lose sight of the fantastic work being done by NHS staff both locally and nationally, under very difficult circumstances. REACH would like to express its heartfelt thanks for all their hard work, dedication and compassion”.

Survey findings

REACH has recognised that the proposals in Fit for the Future are complex and will have a wide-ranging permanent impact on healthcare provision in our County. The implications of centralising emergency care have not, we believe, been explained fully to the public by One Gloucestershire. The concept of excellent care is indeed laudable, and REACH recognises the challenges of staffing as well as the impact of advances in patient care.

Nevertheless, the public have overwhelmingly stated that they would prefer, in general, care closer to home. The public understand that there are significant bed pressures at GRH, which would be amplified further by centralising of acute medicine and emergency surgery at GRH. The public know that One Gloucestershire cannot squeeze the proverbial “quart into a pint pot.”

The large number of extra inpatient beds required at GRH from the centralisation of emergency medicine and surgery are very substantial and are unlikely to be offset by proposals such as centralising day surgery at Cheltenham. The public are rightly concerned that these proposals may downgrade Cheltenham and that proposals to centralise day surgery at Cheltenham might be regarded as a “sop” to public opinion. REACH believes that the excellent facilities and dedicated staff at both hospitals should be used efficiently and that happy and fully engaged staff will then provide the best care and service to the people of our County.

If One Gloucestershire wishes to proceed with its proposals to centralise emergency care at Gloucester in spite of public opinion, REACH believes that as much elective (planned) major surgery should occur at Cheltenham, in order to utilise the beds, nursing expertise and importantly the excellent intensive care unit at Cheltenham. This public survey has shown that if there were to be a centralisation of colorectal surgery and the vascular service, both these services should be located in Cheltenham.

REACH was also concerned about the portrayal of Image Guided Interventional Surgery as a single specialty, when in fact this concept covers many disciplines. After explaining this to the public in non-medical language, the public have indicated that this should be located at Cheltenham. The exception being cardiac intervention, where the public indicated that this could be on both sites or at Cheltenham.

Michael Ratcliffe MBE, Chairman of REACH concluded:

“Through these findings, the public has made their feelings very clear indeed and we urge One Gloucestershire to take these into consideration during their deliberations.

The launch of Fit for the Future during the worst pandemic in living memory has caused much concern among the public and REACH. The Government and healthcare community are concerned that we are likely to experience further future pandemics, and that the COVID virus may mutate significantly.

This COVID pandemic has wrought havoc to our healthcare system and caused the delay and cancellation of non COVID related healthcare for millions of people. REACH believes that any proposal for the future must include resilience planning for future pandemics. One Gloucestershire’s Fit for the Future proposals include no proposals to render our local healthcare system more robust and we would exhort our healthcare leaders to re-examine the proposals in the light of the catastrophic events of the last 9 months”.