Many congratulations to the staff of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, whose skill and hard work has led to a ‘Good’ rating from the CQC health watchdog. This is up from ‘Requires Improvement’, and means Gloucestershire joins an elite group of just 33% of acute trusts.
There’s further to go of course, not least in terms of better management of finances after the serious failings in recent years, but this is a significant step forward.
But the success of staff should not be used by Trust managers as cover for service changes that are bitterly opposed by their own senior clinicians. I’m talking of course about proposals to relocate gastrointestinal (general) surgery from Cheltenham to Gloucester.
I make no apologies for returning to this topic. I believe the changes would be a major mistake, and I’ve been campaigning for the local hospital bosses to rethink them since they were revealed in September last year.
So I’m delighted that this week a cross-party group of local councillors united in the Muni to back this call and express similar concerns. It means there is now a broad coalition of local MPs, senior clinicians, local councillors and other stakeholders that want the Trust to switch to the alternative ‘Option 4’. This would base the county’s elective (ie scheduled, non-urgent) general surgery in Cheltenham.
It’s important to be clear: the Trust’s plans are not about money. The NHS budget is receiving a very significant boost, rising from £122 billion this year to £149 billion in 2023. Instead, this is about service configuration, and local managers at the moment are getting the judgement wrong.
The issue will now be debated by the county-wide Health Scrutiny Committee. Although HCOSC has no power to force the Trust to change its mind, the Trust should listen to elected representatives. They should listen too to the skilled staff whose hard work delivered these service improvements in the first place.