Cheltenham campaign group REACH notes that the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is making changes to the provision of a wide range of services including emergency surgery.
REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham General Hospital) understands that the Trust has made the decision in order to create capacity for the two general hospitals in Cheltenham and Gloucester and the supporting community hospitals to respond to the Covid-19 emergency.
This is an entirely sensible response to the current situation and REACH wishes to be as helpful and supportive as it can to get the messages concerning the NHS changes spread as widely as possible.
We are urging all our supporters to note the changes and accept the Trust is doing all it can to ensure the people of Gloucestershire have access to life-saving treatment throughout the current emergency.
We recognise that once the pandemic has subsided there will be a prolonged period of readjustment during which REACH will play its full part in the consultation arrangements which will need to be conducted as services return to the new normal.
We are already seeing the importance of having two fully functioning hospitals in the county and it is essential that the changes made because of the need to respond to Covid-19 are recognised as necessary temporary measures and NOT as a permanent solution.
This press release is in response to the following statement
From: Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group
31st March 2020
In response to the current COVID-19 outbreak (Coronavirus), the NHS in Gloucestershire has taken a number of temporary measures to help ensure it can continue to provide safe patient care.
In line with national guidance Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has restricted visiting at its two main hospitals in Gloucester and Cheltenham, reduced the number of face to face outpatient appointments in favour of video conferencing and phone calls and reduced planned operations, prioritising vital life and limb saving procedures such as cancer treatments and vascular surgery.
System partners have established a number of GP community hubs in health centres and surgeries across the county to support patients who need face to face medical support as well as making changes to Minor Injury and Illness Units at key community hospitals.
As part of our COVID-19 plans to ensure continuity of essential services we are continually reviewing arrangements and taking responsible and necessary steps to put patient care and safety first.
Given the fragile nature of our emergency general surgery service, it became clear that this service will soon become unsustainable given the impact COVID-19 will inevitably have on staffing levels, particularly medical staffing.
In response to this, the Board of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust met on Wednesday 25 March 2020 and approved a proposal to centralise emergency general surgery on the Gloucestershire Royal Site should it be predicted safe staffing parameters can no longer be met.
We can confirm these parameters can no longer be met and the emergency general surgery service will centralise at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital from 8am on Wednesday 1st April.
The ambulance service (SWASFT) have been asked to take all patients with non-specific abdominal pain to the GRH site, where they can be received in the Emergency Department and assessed on the Surgical Assessment Unit and admitted to hospital / discharged as required.
GPs, Minor Injury & Illness Units and Ambulance colleagues are aware and patients who self-present at the Emergency Department in Cheltenham and need specialist surgical care will be redirected or conveyed by ambulance.
As the move is a response to COVID-19, it will be introduced as an emergency service change. Any future substantive (permanent) change would remain subject to public consultation.
Dr Simon Dwerryhouse, Consultant Surgeon, said: “As part of our contingency planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are centralising emergency general surgery on the GRH site. This will give us the best possible opportunity of providing a safe, sustainable service to patients in Gloucestershire throughout these challenging times.”
Preparations for COVID-19 are continuing at pace and we believe the changes we are making across the board will ensure we are as well prepared as we possibly can be for our patients and staff in response to this unprecedented situation.