The closed blood testing service at Cirencester Hospital is now having a “disproportionate impact” on vulnerable residents, a member of the public has claimed.
Marko Taylor told Gloucestershire County Council’s health scrutiny committee on Tuesday that patients who need blood tests for hospital treatments now have to make additional journeys to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital – about 18 miles away from the town.
Mr Taylor said one lady has “had to pay £70 for a taxi to have access to this basic service”.
Gloucestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said blood tests on a drop-in basis at Cirencester Hospital are no longer being carried out so patients and staff can maintain social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
GP surgeries are now providing blood testing services, the CCG said, adding that the surgeries are receiving more money and staff have been given extra training.
However Mr Taylor said the change meant patients went from receiving same day blood tests to “waiting two weeks for the same service”.
An online petition calling for a halt to the closure of Cirencester Hospital’s blood test clinic has reached more than 3,000 signatures.
Mr Taylor said in the meeting: “There have been two main impacts from this. The first is those with routine referrals for blood tests have gone from having access to a same or next day service at Cirencester Hospital, to now waits of two weeks or longer for access to the same service at GP surgeries.
“For those who had a need to access blood tests related to hospital treatment, the GP surgeries are unable to provide this facility which means a large number of patients are now needing to make additional journeys to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital for this service.
“This is having a disproportionate impact on some of the most vulnerable members of our community because there is no direct bus service from Cirencester and Gloucestershire Royal.
“This is highly disruptive and is impacting those who have the least access to private transport.
“The distinct needs of Cirencester has been bundled together with those of Cheltenham and Gloucester.”
The CCG said there is a bookable blood testing clinic at Cirencester Hospital every Monday morning between 8:30am and 12:15pm during September and October for patients over six.
A statement from the CCG said: “If a patient’s GP requires them to have a routine or urgent blood test, they should book an appointment at their GP surgery where the test will be carried out.
“It is expected that patients should receive their test within the normal timescale for their condition, on the same day if clinically required.
“Practices will also be able to offer suitable appointment times for patients requiring specific blood tests, such as fasting blood tests.
“The overwhelming majority of patients in the South Cotswolds will continue to be able to access local blood testing services that meet their medical requirements, and we are confident that the service provided in primary care will be both high quality and timely.
“This matter will be discussed again at the November meeting of HOSC, by which time permanent plans for community phlebotomy services in Cirencester should be in place.”