When did you last step inside Cheltenham General Hospital? Perhaps you’ve been a patient in the outstanding critical care facility. Or you’ve been to visit a friend. Or perhaps you are one of the inspiring volunteers who work with such dedication to help deliver the best care to patients.
Whichever category you fall into, you may have been struck by the same thing: the hospital needs investment. It needs a new building to replace the existing Centre Block and West Block. It needs additional theatres, upgraded wards for inpatients and improved connectivity between St Luke’s Wing and the rest of the hospital. And it could do with better refreshment and retail facilities – little things which go a long way to improve the environment at a stressful time.
That’s why over the past twelve months or so I’ve been lobbying, together with my Gloucester MP colleague, Richard Graham, for a £30 million-plus bid to invest in CGH and GRH. That’s a huge sum of money I realise. Some have said it is too ambitious. They point to the fact that between 2005 and 2015 we lost Battledown Children Services, doctor-led maternity services, and night-time doctor-led A&E.
But I believe those are reasons why we should be even more determined to turn things around. That’s why I’ve written to Jeremy Hunt to support the Trust’s well-constructed bid, and to set out why I believe Cheltenham is such a deserving candidate. And it’s why I’ve met with the Secretary of State in person on several occasions to make the case.
Earlier this week I raised the bid in Parliament. Jeremy Hunt said to me that he “hoped [I] will have a positive answer”. I may be sticking my neck out here, but I think that sounds encouraging.
Of course this would not solve everything. The campaign for the restoration of 24/7 A&E goes on. But make no mistake, it would be a huge shot in the arm for NHS care in Cheltenham.