I am absolutely delighted that the Government has agreed to invest £10.2m in Cheltenham General Hospital to build a new orthopaedic theatre and birthing unit.
The state-of-the-art theatre will specialise in hip and knee replacements, and will benefit from high-tech ultra-clean ventilation, multi-use carbon fibre theatre tables, and technology to facilitate robot-assisted surgery.
In addition, the birthing unit at Cheltenham General will be transformed into a purpose-built midwifery-led birthing unit, with two new birthing rooms including pools. Works are expected to start later in the year.
This latest funding comes on top of the multi-million pound investment into the new hospital wing opposite the Lido. When those new operating theatres come online, Cheltenham General will have capacity for an additional 2,500 planned operations a year.
That will help the staff, who are already doing heroic work to drive down the operations backlog, to accelerate yet further.
It wasn’t always this way. Eight years ago, as a brand-new MP I was struck by the sense of malaise and decay about our hospital. Battledown Children’s Services had been lost. Doctor-led maternity had been quietly shipped off to Gloucester. Wise heads told me that Trust bosses would close our A&E and there was nothing I or anyone else could do about it.
But we in Cheltenham refused to accept such defeatism. We mobilised, organised, and threatened legal action to see off health bosses’ plans to shutter A&E. We fought for new investment, including four new LINAC radiotherapy machines, a £6.5m Government grant to buy the latest Siemens CT, X-Ray and MRI scanners. And we secured £2m for a new Apollo theatre with world-class infection control ventilation system.
Add in £1.25 million for a new cancer-busting robot, and £900,000 to upgrade A&E waiting facilities, and it means that our hospital will have received over £40m of investment in recent years.
No one doubts the historic pressures in urgent care. But when it comes to planned care and the future of our hospital, Cheltenham General is on the up.
[Column first published in the Glos Echo]