This week I met hospital consultants and registrars working on the front-line in Cheltenham General Hospital and Gloucestershire Royal to discuss the COVID arrangements across both sites. Although I regularly speak to managers, the Tewkesbury MP and I were keen to hear direct from the experts themselves.
The clinicians spoke positively about how the temporary configuration provides greater resilience in the junior doctor rota at this difficult time. That’s important, given the pressures they are under. They also said that splitting the hospitals into ‘red’ (COVID) and ‘green’ (non-COVID) sites helps Cheltenham General to clear the operations backlog.
But there was also a frank acknowledgement about the pressure on beds at Gloucestershire Royal. A recent piece by ITV showing ambulances stacked up outside Gloucester A&E made that very clear. So I once again emphasised the importance of getting Cheltenham’s A&E back on the front-line as quickly as possible.
I was pleased that the Trust’s medical director once again recommitted the Trust to reopening Cheltenham’s A&E. But what is missing is clarity and transparency about when that will be – or at least which factors will determine the timing. Emergency powers were used to suspend Cheltenham’s A&E, meaning no public consultation. That was understandable early on in the pandemic, but now is the time for the public to be kept informed.
In other news, the leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, Cllr Steve Jordan, announced he would be standing down at the next election after 30 years as a local councillor. That is a remarkable record of service, and I pay tribute to him. Cllr Jordan and I have disagreed vigorously (who can forget Boots Corner?) but we have also worked together in a constructive spirit where that was in the town's interest. I am grateful to him in particular for getting behind the cyber vision, which I have long championed as a jobs and opportunity generator for Cheltenham.
He deserves our good wishes for the future.