I meet regularly with Hospital Trust managers (via Zoom) to discuss Gloucestershire’s response to the pandemic.
On Friday I again challenged the leadership about their temporary closure of Cheltenham A&E.
I made clear that the suspension is causing me and others growing concern – particularly given the ‘critical incident’ declared at Gloucester A&E recently. COVID cannot and must not be the pretext for quietly pensioning off our A&E.
The Chief Executive responded to me that “Cheltenham A&E will reopen”. That statement was witnessed by the county’s MPs, the leader of Gloucestershire County Council, the head of Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and the head of Public Health Gloucestershire.
The Chief Executive also clarified that this meant a Type 1 A&E, as we have already.
I welcome that statement, and I accept it. What we now need is clarity about when it will reopen.
Is the key factor the level of COVID in Gloucestershire? If so, what’s the threshold below which the suspension will be lifted? 10 cases per 100,000? 5 cases? 1 case? What's the basis for the chosen number?
Or is it the size of the operations backlog? If so, what’s the number of outstanding operations that the Trust wants to hit before triggering the reopening? What's the basis for the number chosen?
Or is the Trust proposing to keep A&E closed until there is a vaccine? If so, why?
Currently, Trust bosses are using emergency powers. In a crisis, that is understandable.
But there needs to be transparency about the *limits* to those sweeping powers. Only then can we as a community fairly judge whether their ongoing use is justified.
A&E matters. I will make no apology for being vigilant about its future. We fought for it in the past. If necessary we will fight for it again.