I have been reliably informed that the NHS in Gloucestershire is about to publish plans to downgrade the A&E Department at Cheltenham General Hospital. A proposal will be published in a consultation next week, with the consultation lasting for less than a month.
Cheltenham is a town of 115,000 people and Cheltenham General's A&E is used by people living in the Cotswolds and elsewhere in Gloucestershire.
Cheltenham deserves an A&E and Gloucestershire Royal simply doesn't have capacity anyway to handle all the county's demand.
Show your opposition to these plans by signing my petition below. NHS managers might think this is a done deal, which is why they've launched the consultation in August, but they are wrong. The fightback starts today.
CAMPAIGN UPDATE (23/10/2019)- Health Secretary rules out A&E closure. **WATCH HERE**
The Health Secretary has just announced, having spoken to the Gloucestershire health managers, that closure of our A&E has been taken off the table and will not form part of proposals put out for consultation in the New Year.
This is truly fantastic news, and it’s a tribute to the the fighting spirit of local people. I am so grateful to the 20,000+ residents who signed my petition and the hundreds who responded to the engagement. This would not have happened without your incredible support.
Special thanks too to cross-Party campaign group REACH, who have been fighting this fight for many years - ever since the 2013 downgrade. Their work has been amazing.
There will be more fights to come I’m sure. But let us today celebrate a great day for Cheltenham and everyone who cares about local health services.
CAMPAIGN UPDATE (11/10/2019)
Monday 14 October is an important date in our campaign to save Cheltenham’s A&E.
It’s the deadline for members of the public to respond to the “engagement exercise” being run by local health managers (One Gloucestershire) on the future of healthcare in Gloucestershire. As I've written before, this “engagement” matters because One Gloucestershire have stated that the feedback will, in their words, “inform future planning” for the firm proposals that are expected to go out for statutory consultation in January 2020.
In other words, what the public says now will help decide whether Cheltenham keeps its A&E.
Thanks to thousands of you receiving this email, it's already clear what the public think. Nearly 20,000 people have signed my petition to keep this vital facility open, and that number is rising every day. But despite this, One Gloucestershire have declined to take closure off the table. That's concerning, because an email leaked earlier this year suggested shutting A&E was, in reality, the settled plan.
It has been suggested to me that the number of respondents to the engagement has so far been relatively small. If so, that may be for a number of reasons. First, awareness seems to be quite low; second, the form isn't straightforward to navigate (not least understanding the technical differences between 'urgent' and 'emergency' care is tricky); and third, some are sceptical about the process, noting that One Gloucestershire originally planned for it to take place between 5 August and 2 September when many were away - timing that led some to conclude that One Gloucestershire were just going through the motions.
Despite all that I still think we need to cooperate with the engagement. It provides another opportunity to make our views heard about retaining A&E, and I don't want it to be used as a pretext, however flimsy, for an unwelcome proposal.
So can I encourage you to take this last opportunity to respond, if you haven't already?
You can find the survey online at https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/fitforthefuture/ to provide a personal response.
Alternatively, because I realise people are busy, if you agree with the answers to the engagement that I’ve drafted HERE then email me at email@example.com to let me know you agree, and provide your postcode if possible. I will then make sure your views are submitted, as per the text.
HOSPITAL UPDATE (19/08/2019 - 14:30)
Health managers have stated recently that there is no plan to close Cheltenham’s A&E “in September”. That’s welcome of course, but we need know about the plans thereafter. There simply isn’t the capacity in Gloucestershire Royal to cope with the whole county’s A&E, despite the incredible efforts of talented and dedicated staff.
Today the MPs for Cheltenham, the Cotswolds and Tewkesbury wrote to the health leadership calling on them to rule out closing Cheltenham’s A&E.
HOSPITAL UPDATE (3/08/2019 - 11:30)
I have been informed by the Trust that a decision has been taken to “temporarily pause the next stage of the engagement process due to commence on Monday 5th August.”
They go on to state:
“This follows feedback we have received from our stakeholders about the need to do further work in advance of the engagement launch to avoid any unintended confusion between the launch of this engagement process and the formal public consultation planned towards the end of the year.
A further update will follow next week.”
I warmly welcome this decision. But the Trust now needs to go further and rule out downgrading Cheltenham’s A&E. I and the thousands of people who have contacted me will challenge any such plans every step of the way.