Alex urges the Trust not to temporarily close A&E

The Dominic Cummings affair has exploded into the inboxes of MPs across the country. Mine is no different, and by the time this column is printed I will have made my way through responses to many hundreds of constituents who have contacted me. If you would like to be included please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

But I wanted to talk about something equally important: proposed changes to Cheltenham General Hospital. These are changes we should resist.

Largely missed amidst this furore are proposals to reduce opening hours of CGH’s Emergency Department, and close it completely overnight. The context is that as part of the recovery phase from COVID the Trust have already designated Cheltenham as the ‘green’ site, to focus on unwinding the backlog of ‘elective’ (ie non-emergency) care. Gloucestershire Royal is the ‘red’, emergency, site. 

Whilst we must all be pragmatic in these extraordinary times, I have already said that this cannot be the moment when under the cover of COVID our Type 1 A&E is quietly pensioned off. We fought off the plans to close it last year, and I was pleased to receive cast-iron written reassurance from the Trust last month that A&E will reopen. I will hold them to that.

Despite that assurance, I nevertheless oppose these fresh plans to shut the hospital’s doors after 8pm. This would be the first time in living memory – and possibly the history of the hospital – that Cheltenham General would be completely shuttered at night.  It would set an unacceptable precedent which risks weakening this vital local institution.

It would also send absolutely the wrong message – not just to patients, but also to clinicians and non-clinical staff – that the hospital is being deprioritised. It’s a line in the sand that should not be crossed.

An emergency change of this nature does not require public consultation, but as a stakeholder I will be responding and making my views crystal clear.