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Doctor says Cheltenham A&E "will close"

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: January 30, 2013

Comments (16)

CLOSING Cheltenham's accident and emergency department is inevitable, a GP has warned.

Dr Phillip Fielding, who is based at the Royal Well Surgery, said the idea of centralising the county's A&E services in Gloucester had already been discussed by GPs and county health chiefs.

The news will increase speculation surrounding the future of the A&E department at Cheltenham General Hospital after concerns were raised by MP Martin Horwood earlier this month. But leaders at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have repeatedly stressed A&E departments at Cheltenham General and Gloucestershire Royal hospitals were safe from closure. The stance was reiterated yesterday by a senior consultant who said there were "no plans" on the table to close either department.

But Dr Fielding, who is chairman of the county's local medical committee, said that, although it would be a bitter pill to swallow, centralising A&E services was the best option to ensure the highest standards of care remained available to patients.

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He said: "It all goes back to the question of how to maintain the best standard of service locally.

"In an ideal world we would be able to maintain that standard at A&E departments in both Cheltenham and Gloucester.

"But we may have to accept that it's not possible in the current climate.

"The trouble is that medical procedures are getting more complicated and the risks involved in many operations are getting greater.

"Although it is regrettable, with the resources available it's inevitable that specialist services will be best carried out on central sites, where all the best training is available."

He added that there would be gains and losses on both sides in any moves to restructure services.

"Some services will come over to Cheltenham from Gloucester, such as oncology, but A&E is likely to be centralised in Gloucester," he said.

"It means people will have to change how they think about the service. It also means we will have to depend on our ambulance services to get people to hospital quickly.

"The most important thing is to preserve the highest standards possible."

The sobering message comes after the hospitals' managers promised to carry out extensive public consultation to find out what kind of services people wanted amidst any moves to restructure.

Details of the consultation will be made public tomorrow.

Mr Horwood said given the demand at county A&E departments it would be a "bizarre" time to downgrade them.

Dr Tom Llewellyn, emergency medicine consultant at the trust, said there had been ongoing discussions with clinicians on how best to overcome challenges and ensure patients received the best care.

He said: "There are no plans to close either of our A&E departments, but we will publish proposals soon for public engagement, setting out how we think services could develop."


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  • Justica  |  February 02 2013, 6:32PM

    Don't have an accident race week - you will never get out of Cheltenham to get over to Gloucester A & E.

  • late83  |  February 02 2013, 6:21PM

    Whoever makes that decision will have blood on their hands and will simply kill people, get a flippin grip!!!

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  • Coingrass  |  January 31 2013, 9:52PM

    Knee-jerk reactions are understandable but if you read the consultation document and look at the facts concerning the lack of qualified clinicians then it is apparent that the Trust is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Given the facts, simply maintaining the status quo isn't really an option. I don't like it any better than you do but under the circumstances I can't see a better alternative than the one proposed - can you?

  • dilbert  |  January 31 2013, 9:02PM

    http://tinyurl.com/as7ufhw See what is being proposed for pediatrics and A&E night time cover and please get your objections in as soon as possible. If this gets passed, who knows what will be the next thing......

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  • EllJay1  |  January 31 2013, 12:32PM

    I think it's a sneaky ploy to cut the cost of care for the elderly. I imagine that elderly people would be less likely to survive a long trip to A&E than younger people. Just imagine the savings to be made! I'm already 70 and I actually think I'd rather go that way than suffer some of the indignities associated wth dementia, incontinence etc. Go out with a bang, not a whimper is what I say.

  • bonnie54  |  January 31 2013, 11:56AM

    Ridiculous! if somebody needs to go to A&E (which is usually in a life & death situation), how on earth are they supposed to get to Gloucester, especially if they don't have transport? Also stupid is the fact a person could think it would actually be a good thing! Ultimately, none of us will have a say in the matter and the NHS (as usual), will do exactly what it wants. As if services throughout are not going downhill as it is.

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  • AdamReader  |  January 31 2013, 10:33AM

    @hackingtacke, Dr Fielding is Chairman of the County local Medical Committee, so actually quite qualified to comment. Whilst Cheltenham has a population of 110 000 it has a catchment area of of 250 000" Cleeve , Stow, Moreton, Winchcomb and all places in between so closing an A&E in Cheltenham would have a disastrous consequence, whomever makes these decisions should, MUST take this into account. Please for all our sakes.

    |   10
  • Hackingtackle  |  January 30 2013, 9:33PM

    I suppose I would be labelled a 'tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist' if I suggested that this has all been carefully orchestrated? It would be interesting if, now that Dr Fielding has caused a bit of local panic by suggesting the department will close, an announcement was made at a later date suggesting that instead there would just be a major reduction in services at Cheltenham. We'd all be rather relieved then and not kick up such a stink, wouldn't we? I imagine we'll have to see what tomorrow's news brings.

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  • Barney0123  |  January 30 2013, 9:06PM

    johnstevens3 I only said 8 miles or so, just from Chelt to Glos. I totally agree with you re all the other towns and villages. I was counting the mileage from Hosp to Hosp. Martin Horwood is only ever any good in front ogf a camera or in front of the press. Let's see if he jumps up and makes any noise on this!!!!!!!!!!!

    |   -1
  • Matt1006  |  January 30 2013, 8:37PM

    Hmm. Over 860,000 people in Gloucestershire, spread over 1,200 square miles. Centralised A&E in Gloucester? Don't be so stupid. Would be utterly ridiculous to do such a thing. Would certainly cost lives, especially from the furthest corners of the county. This Doctor needs gagging, ASAP.

    |   8