Following the unveiling by Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust of their “Fit for the Future” document and engagement exercise, REACH (Restoring Emergency and Accident at Cheltenham General Hospital) has responded by calling upon the Trust to be more honest and transparent about their plans. In particular, for Accident & Emergency and General Surgery at Cheltenham General Hospital.

The “Fit for the Future” document asks the Gloucestershire public to consider changes to Accident and Emergency/Urgent Care, general and emergency surgery, interventional radiology and vascular surgery.

Chris Hickey, spokesperson for REACH commented:

“Honesty and transparency should be at the heart of every NHS organisation and Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (GLCCG) and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust should be no exception.

“Having examined the “Fit for the Future” document in detail we are gravely concerned at the potential for it to mislead the public and that it acts as a smokescreen to hide the genuine intentions of the NHS Trust. Despite being 21 pages long and packed full of carefully crafted words the Trust has not stated clearly or openly their plans. For this engagement to be successful it is essential for the Trust to make crystal clear what their actual intentions are”.

REACH believe that having examined the “Fit for the Future” Document in detail, there are six key proposals:
1) Downgrade the Accident and Emergency Dept at Cheltenham General, which is currently manned by specialist emergency doctors and nurses. This would then be replaced by an “Urgent Care Centre”, manned by GPs and not hospital emergency specialists.

2) Transfer all emergency and major inpatient general/bowel surgery from Cheltenham General to Gloucestershire Royal, leaving Cheltenham General Hospital to perform intermediate and minor day-case surgery only (similar to Cirencester, Tewkesbury and Stroud General Hospitals). This would also remove the resident out of hours general surgical cover from Cheltenham, and seriously jeopardise the safety of all inpatients.

3) Reorganise all interventional radiology and vascular services into the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital site, thus wasting the £2.5 million investment of taxpayers’ money spent on the hybrid vascular surgery/interventional radiology operating theatre at Cheltenham, which was opened less than 5 years ago.

4) Removal of out of hours surgical cover for sick patients at the Oncology Centre. Oncology patients can sometimes be some of the sickest patients in hospital with major bowel/abdominal emergencies, particularly when their immune system is hindered by chemotherapy.5) Threaten the future of the important pelvic cancer surgery unit at Cheltenham General Hospital, following the removal of emergency and inpatient general/bowel surgery.

6) Isolate the medical gastroenterology unit, which was centralised in Cheltenham General Hospital 2 years ago. Medical gastroenterology inpatients can deteriorate rapidly and require urgent surgical review and sometimes life-saving surgery by the general/bowel surgeons.
Chis Hickey, outlined what steps REACH now intends to take:

“We wait with a great deal of interest to see whether the Trust adopts a more honest and open approach. In the meantime we will act as a rallying point for anybody who opposes these proposals, however opaque the proposals may be.

“In terms of next steps, we will shortly be publishing a detailed document which clarifies and explains what we believe to be the real meaning of the document. In addition we shall also release a clear quantifiable version of their survey and be encouraging as many people as possible to complete it.

“We will then share the results with the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, which we trust they will fully take account of and give assurances regarding the future of Cheltenham A&E”.