In a world that’s gone election-barmy, it’s vital we don’t lose sight of the day-to-day campaigns that hum away behind the scenes but which really affect lives. This week I’m delighted to report two important developments affecting our local NHS.
First, this month I received some very welcome news about my campaign for cancer-fighting resources for Cheltenham General, something close to my heart.
Cancer is now the biggest cause of death in Gloucestershire. But Cheltenham's brilliant oncology clinicians are achieving better survival rates than the England average. They are some of our country’s finest. That’s why I have been campaigning for our hospital to secure a new LINAC (linear accelerator) radiotherapy machine. Around 4 in 10 of all NHS cancer patients are treated with radiotherapy, typically using high-energy radiation from a LINAC. We already have several at CGH, but technology has moved on dramatically in recent years. The modern versions provide revolutionary precision treatment, tracking tumours as they move around the body and significantly reducing the damage to healthy tissue.
Over several months I have met with Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and held talks with senior NHS management in Parliament to make the case for Cheltenham’s oncology centre. I’ve said that our cancer team has the skills and track record to justify investment in this vital (if eye-wateringly expensive) equipment.
Following my campaign, I’ve now received a letter from NHS England to confirm that Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust is to receive funding for a new LINAC radiotherapy unit. It is estimated that this machine will deliver an estimated 9,000 treatments per year, for around 550-600 patients.
Second, just a few days ago I received more good news, this time about our A&E. Since my election in 2015, I’ve been fighting for a return to a full 24/7 doctor-led provision. I’ve been calling on Gloucestershire NHS to introduce an Urgent Care Centre at Cheltenham Hospital throughout the night, to support our excellent emergency nurse practitioners. This would be a vital stepping-stone towards restoring full A&E cover.
As part of that I’ve wanted to see additional funding to help our dedicated staff plan for winter pressures. So I’m delighted that Cheltenham’s A&E team has just been awarded an extra £620,000 to address exactly that. Taken together with £300,00 for Gloucestershire Royal, this is a real vote of confidence in Gloucestershire’s emergency healthcare. It’s a shot in the arm for A&E at Cheltenham too.