Cheltenham General Hospital’s emergency department will temporarily close as of next week as the local NHS trust prepares for a potential second spike in coronavirus cases.
Plans to send 999 admissions to Cheltenham General to Gloucestershire Royal, about eight miles away, were approved by the trust’s board today via an online meeting.
As of June 9, Cheltenham General will become a Minor Injury and Illness Unit (MIIU), operating 8am to 8pm seven days a week for three months.
Chief executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Deborah Lee, said in the meeting the temporary move is “the safest option” in the event of a second coronavirus peak.
The town’s MP Alex Chalk and campaign group REACH have both previously expressed concerns that the coronavirus pandemic was being used “as the pretest for a quiet downgrade”.
Ms Lee said in the meeting the changes “should last at least three months” but the “commitment remains” for it to return to emergency department status.
“What we have not compromised on is the safety associated with our services and the quality of care that we would not fall beneath. That’s been the challenge in the nuance.
“We haven’t got the luxury of planning independently for 20 or 30 services. We’ve had to do what’s considered the right thing for all of our services, the context we have for the whole of our county noting some of the key interdepencies.
“Our two sites present an immense opportunity and that many of my colleagues around the country wish they had the opportunity to create the degree of separation between services, pathways and risks that our two sites give us.
“The two sites had introduced complexity, without a doubt, but this is a huge opportunity that many others don’t have to fulfill those primary goals of reducing the risk of transmission between patients and staff, returning as many people back to safe care as we possibly can whilst ever-being prepared for a second surge should it come. I’m immensely impressed with what the team has pulled off,” she said
Under the proposals approved by the the trust’s board:
- Cheltenham General Hospital’s emergency department will become an MIIU seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm.
- All 999 and undifferentiated GP referrals would be centralised at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
- Acute medical take moved to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
- Urology 999 front door pathway would move to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, planned and non-Covid pathways would remain at Cheltenham General Hospital.
- Radiology services at Cheltenham General Hospital would be focused on outpatient care and support a largely non-Covid bed base and ambulatory access.
- Emergency vascular service ill be moved to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.