Patients left to find own way home from A&E at night
EMERGENCY patients taken by ambulance from Cheltenham to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital are having to make their own way home once they are discharged at night.
From August 1, a reconfiguration of county emergency services has seen Cheltenham General accept only walk-in casualties from 8pm until 8am.
All ambulance drop-offs are now taken direct to Gloucester.
A concentration of emergency staff there is providing round-the-clock care as CGH operates a nurse-led service.
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Once treated in Gloucester, A&E patients arriving by ambulance must make their own way back to Cheltenham.
Taxis from Gloucester to Cheltenham typically cost around £20 and considerably more after midnight.
Of a total of 286 ambulances arriving at GRH during the first week of changes, 171 patients were admitted.
The remaining 40 per cent were discharged.
In that first week, around 80 additional ambulances were diverted to GRH, suggesting more than 30 patients who would have been discharged in Cheltenham found themselves in Gloucester instead and had to make their own way home.
Chief executive Dr Frank Harsent said some Cheltenham emergency patients will have to get used to the same scenario that has faced many other patients from elsewhere in the county for years.
"We appreciate that Cheltenham residents may have concerns about transport costs if they are taken by ambulance to Gloucestershire Royal and then discharged the same night," he said.
"In the NHS, it is usually expected that patients who attend A&E and do not require admission to hospital will make their own arrangements for transport home once their emergency treatment has been completed.
"This is already the case for residents who live in the many towns and villages in the rest of the county.
"Our patients will only be discharged when it's clinically appropriate, safe and where possible convenient for them and their families."
Patients who are taken by ambulance to GRH and subsequently discharged will be expected to either arrange for a taxi or arrange for friends or relatives to collect them.
Emergency medicine consultant, Tom Llewellyn, said A&E patients with minor injuries should be making use of low waiting times in Cheltenham during the evenings.
"There is still a service that patients can use and waiting times in Cheltenham A&E are very short at night now," he said.
"If you are in Gloucester with a minor injury and you can get to Cheltenham, that would be the quicker option."
Questions about public transport to and from hospitals were raised during the recent public consultation process.
Information about a range of transport options in the county – public, NHS and voluntary – is available at gloshospitals.org. uk.