I am delighted that the Government has this week announced an additional £4.4million to upgrade local A&E facilities ahead of the winter.
The extra cash will increase capacity, put enhanced infection prevention and control measures in place and make improvements to emergency care.
This comes on top of the £6 billion to support our health services in England, freeing up hospital beds and delivering urgent priorities including acquiring ventilators. Additional cash has also enabled home delivery of medicines to the most vulnerable people in Gloucestershire, and it has helped support retired practitioners to join the front line.
But as well pumping extra money into the system, we also need to get Cheltenham General’s A&E back on the front line. That’s why I have written to local Trust managers, together with the MPs for Tewkesbury and the Cotswolds, calling on them to lift the suspension.
The basis for the suspension was the fight against COVID-19, and I recognise the heroic work at all levels of the local NHS to address this threat. Splitting our hospitals into a red (COVID) site at Gloucester and a green (non-COVID) site at Cheltenham was a logical response.
But the threat from COVID has to be balanced against all the other medical need in the county. It is becoming increasingly clear that demand for urgent and emergency care in Gloucestershire is surging back, and all our capacity needs to be deployed. Even with the NHS having taken over beds at the Nuffield and Winfield, Cheltenham's capacity is still needed.
I recognise of course the cast-iron written assurance I have received from managers that A&E at Cheltenham will reopen. Our view is that this needs to happen without delay.
Cheltenham’s A&E is a key pillar of Gloucestershire’s ‘business as usual’ health capacity. The funding is there, and the time has come to get our A&E back on line.