Patient "ping pong" concerns at Cheltenham General Hospital
Concerns have been raised of A&E patients being victims of “ping pong” ambulance transfers between Gloucestershire’s two main hospitals.
There have been suggestions that patients are being moved between Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Gloucester and Cheltenham General Hospital to free up beds and that care has suffered as a result.
Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the body responsible for the two sites, confirmed there was a “daytime divert” in place in the first month after Cheltenham General had its A&E downgraded.
And while that practice has now stopped there are still “ad-hoc” diverts used to relieve “short term pressures”.
But the Trust has stressed that such a practice was in place prior to the changes to A&E in the town which has seen all emergency patients taken to Gloucester.
The news comes as the campaign to restore A&E back to normal gathers pace with Alex Chalk, the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham, joining Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood in backing Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce’s Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital (REaCH) campaign.
Martin Horwood said he had heard “anecdotal evidence” of patient “ping pong”.
He said: “I have also had anecdotal evidence of people being taken to Gloucester and then being told to get a taxi home which, when you are ill, is obviously not very nice.
“It all underlines the need to have robust information published on how well this is working out in practice.
“The anecdotal evidence suggests that it is not working very well.”
A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “To maximise the use of available beds across the sites in the first month after the changes, we had been regularly requesting a daytime divert from GRH to CGH.
“This placed additional pressure on the ambulance trust and in September this practice was stopped.
“We continue to work with colleagues there to rectify this; September figures show this process is starting to work more effectively.
“During September, ad-hoc diverts to respond to short-term pressures were requested.
“This is a practice that was in place prior to the changes. Even when we have a divert in place, patients will still be taken direct to the hospital which delivers the appropriate specialist services – i.e. patients with obvious stroke symptoms will be taken to GRH.
“In the vast majority of cases, our patients are diverted to the most appropriate hospital for their needs and we do take into account where these patients live wherever possible.”