Today, Thursday, Laurence Robertson MP and I will meet at our request local health Trust bosses to restate our serious concerns about their plans for general surgery changes at Cheltenham General Hospital.
Although we will be polite, we will also be blunt. I’m afraid we have become increasingly dismayed by the Trust’s handling of their plans for this important service pathway.
First, their proposals are flawed. As 58 local clinicians have agreed, they do not benefit patient care in either Cheltenham General Hospital or Gloucester Royal. That’s because general - ie gastro-intestinal – surgeons provide vital support for patients being treated for a wide range of conditions, ranging from perforated bowel and bowel obstruction to the treatment of pelvic cancer. Moving general surgery means that cancer surgeons seeking to build CGH’s reputation as an oncology centre of excellence would have one hand tied behind their backs.
Second, promises made to us as MPs to work up a better alternative appear not to have been honoured. At our 18 September meeting last year we were assured that an alternative model (so-called ‘Option 4’) involving the retention of general surgery in Cheltenham would be worked up before the Trust’s pilot went live. And yet despite my writing on several occasions to establish what work has been done, we have received no satisfactory answer.
Third, despite claims that it would be a mere pilot, I am concerned that this is a full-blown service delivery change in all but name. That’s because, as many medics also agree, the simple fact of a pilot would lead to healthcare professionals being uprooted and scattered to different parts of Gloucestershire. Like Humpty Dumpty, it risks being impossible to put it all back together again.
So I make no apology for fighting these proposals tooth and nail, through the courts if necessary. There’s no point trying to shut the door after the horse has bolted. The time to stop this is now.