There has been some understandable cynicism in Cheltenham about the future of our A&E. Despite clear, repeated and cast-iron assurances given to me by Trust bosses that the COVID-related suspension will be temporary, some have questioned whether such promises should be accepted at face value.
I believe we should take NHS professionals at their word. But I have pressed at every stage for hard evidence to accompany the clear words.
Well, this week we received it.
In a letter to me and other stakeholders about the upcoming “Fit for the Future” engagement on a wider reorganisation of healthcare in Gloucestershire, bosses have confirmed that Cheltenham’s A&E will be protected. In their direct words “There are no proposals to close Cheltenham General A&E Department or to change the pre-COVID 19 opening hours”. In other words, our A&E is secure, off the table, and carved out of any wider reorganisation.
To have this in black and white and in a public-facing document is hugely welcome. The people of Cheltenham can take quiet pride in what they have achieved. I feel sure that we would not have secured this pledge without the astonishing surge of public support witnessed last year.
Now the focus must be on ensuring that the wider health reorganisation works for Cheltenham and the surrounding area. There is much that I want to deliver for the town – and the county. In particular, I think Cheltenham General should become the centre of Gloucestershire’s planned care – in abdominal surgery, vascular surgery and other specialities – helping secure its future as a truly general hospital.
Do have your say. Google One Gloucestershire for the online booklet or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to request information. If you can’t get on the internet or use email, the NHS can also send information or arrange a telephone conversation - call 0800 0151 548 to leave a message.
There is always more to do – but this is good news indeed.