ECHO COMMENT: Why Cheltenham and Gloucester both need their A&E departments
CHELTENHAM General Hospital and Gloucestershire Royal Hospital are eight miles apart.
That’s not as the crow flies, but as the car - or, more appropriately - the ambulance drives.
So what, exactly, is all the fuss about both hospitals having their own accident and emergency department? If Cheltenham and Gloucester are so close, can’t the county cope with a single A & E?
We believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that the answer is no.
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The Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust continues to insist that there are no proposals to close A & E at Cheltenham.
But the concern grows, with Cheltenham’s MP Martin Horwood among those who believe that serious discussions are taking place.
Today’s comments by respected Cheltenham GP Dr Phillip Fielding are alarming not just because they support that view, but because he sees the withdrawal of the service from Cheltenham as “inevitable”.
There is commendable logic to his argument. It would be better for patients to have a high quality standard of properly resourced care at one hospital than to spread it across two sites that would not have the skills or facilities to cope.
But where is the evidence that Gloucestershire Royal could cope? Even if more resources are diverted from Cheltenham General, can current waiting times really be tackled and the quality of care improved?
On a busy Friday night earlier this month, patients had to wait more than four hours for treatment. And that was with Cheltenham’s A & E open and facing its own backlog of almost two hours.
Dr Fielding says that the NHS is simply not providing the financial support needed for two A & E units to run in Gloucestershire.
And there is the rub. If the service was properly funded, both major centres of population in our county would continue to have their own emergency departments.
The make-up of Gloucestershire demands it and the current pressures indicates they are needed.
Dr Tom Llewellyn, in repeating today that there are no plans to close either A & E department, says that the public are soon to be given the opportunity to comment on the future of the services.
We believe that at the forefront of the public’s thoughts will be the need for a properly-funded NHS to provide a top-rate A & E service - in Cheltenham and Gloucester.