The campaign to save Cheltenham’s A&E is stepping up a gear. Earlier this week I hand-delivered hundreds of responses to NHS bosses’ "engagement exercise" about the future of healthcare in Gloucestershire. That came on top of nearly 17,000 signatures from local people on my petition to protect this vital service. Together in Cheltenham we are arguing, passionately but with powerful logic, that the service needs to stay.
One Gloucestershire, the body running the “engagement”, maintain that no decisions have been made about A&E. Given leaked correspondence, such assurances don’t cut it I’m afraid. They need to go further and rule out closure. It’s the only way to allay our concerns.
I also joined over a hundred local people at Cheltenham General Hospital, to hear presentations from senior managers and clinicians. We heard that Gloucestershire Hospitals’ budget went up by over 7% last year - from £498m to £533m. As for patient numbers, 140 patients are seen every day at Cheltenham A&E with 280 going to Gloucester. It begs the question - how can GRH conceivably absorb an additional 140 patients a day? No criticism of Gloucester’s excellent A&E team, but it would increase their workload by 50%.
And with an additional £920,000 having been invested in refurbishing Cheltenham’s A&E, why are managers spending taxpayers’ cash on an A&E service that they refuse to rule out closing?
In positive news, Cheltenham's brilliant oncology centre continues to go from strength to strength, treating patients from as far away as Powys. I am delighted to have helped CGH secure a total of four LINACs (the latest radiotherapy machines which deliver ultra-precise doses). Clinicians have also taken delivery of a new £1.25m hi-tech cancer-treating robot.
There’s so much health news to be positive about. Health bosses simply need to remove the one cloud on the horizon, and commit to the future of Cheltenham’s A&E.