Breaking: Investigation launched into why patients wait ‘too long’ at Cheltenham and Gloucester A&E

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: June 10, 2015
Waiting times at A&E at Cheltenham General Hospital and Gloucestershire Royal Hospital are to be investigated by watchdog Monitor.

It has opened an investigation into Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to find out why patients have been waiting too long to be seen in its A&E department.

The trust, which provides acute and specialist care at hospitals in Gloucester and Cheltenham, has been failing to see some patients in A&E within the national waiting time target of four hours. It has been missing this target for the majority of the financial year from September 2014 to 2015.

Monitor will examine why the trust is consistently failing the national A&E target and what can be done to reduce waiting times for patients.

Paul Streat, Regional Director at Monitor, said:”Some patients at the trust have been waiting too long in A&E, and this has been going on for some time. For the benefit of local people in Gloucestershire, the situation needs to improve soon.

“Over the past year we have worked with the trust and local health care organisations to identify what could be done to improve health care across the area, but we now need to look more closely at what the trust could do for its patients in A&E.”

No decision has been made by Monitor on whether action will be needed. Monitor will announce the outcome of its investigation once it is completed.

Monitor is the sector regulator of NHS-funded health care services.

A statement from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Emergency care is a whole system issue with close interdependencies across both primary as well as social care.

“We are fully committed to improving A&E waiting times and we welcome the opportunity to work with Monitor and our partners on delivering high quality patient care against this standard.

“A detailed action plan has already been implemented and we have continued to make good progress. In May the Trust narrowly missed out on the four hour wait having achieved 93.53 per cent.

“Monitor will announce the outcome of its investigation in due course.”

The Clinical Chair of NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Helen Miller said: “We share the Hospital Trust’s view that on-going and close partnership working across the health and social care community is vital to make sure that waits in Gloucestershire’s A&E departments continue to reduce and that patients always receive the right care, in the right place at the right time.

“There is a joint plan in place which includes recruiting additional staff, providing increased access to GP appointments and increasing capacity within community services. This plan is supported by significant additional investment in front line services.

“Performance against the four hour maximum wait standard is improving and we are committed to working closely with the Trust, Monitor and other partners to build on this.”

The CCG also said that attendances at the two emergency departments fell by 2.6 per cent in April and May compared to the same period last year.

Read more:

‘No plans’ to axe A&E at Cheltenham General Hospital but service downgrade is here to stay

By jrmaidment  |  Posted: June 09, 2015

A&E will not be axed at Cheltenham General Hospital – but a downgrade of services is unlikely to be reversed.

Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk has delivered on his 2015 General Election pledge and met with NHS chiefs to demand clarity over the future of the hospital.

And the message he received was clear: There are no plans to close A&E but there are also no plans to put it back to how it used to be.

The town’s A&E department was downgraded in July 2013 and it is now only fully functional during the day.

Overnight emergencies are sent to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital while Cheltenham deals with the walking wounded.

There have been numerous and repeated calls to reverse the downgrade but such a move looks increasingly unlikely.

Fears have been expressed in the past that Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which runs the General and the Royal could move to shut Cheltenham’s A&E.

Before the 2015 General Election Mr Chalk was passed a confidential internal NHS report which listed centralising emergency surgery onto one site (either Cheltenham or Gloucester) as one of the Trust’s ‘specific priorities’ over the next two years.

Mr Chalk sat down for two hours on Friday with GHNHSFT bosses and Gloucester MP Richard Graham.

During the meeting Mr Chalk received some reassurance that the Trust has no current plans to close A&E at Cheltenham General Hospital.

Mr Chalk told the Echo: ”I called this meeting because I was concerned about the future of A&E here in Cheltenham.

“A town of our size deserves a first class, acute, hospital and I am reassured to hear that the Trust has no plans to axe our A&E.

“But there is no room for complacency.

“There are challenges facing our hospital, including sorely needed more modern facilities.

“I will continue to press the case for healthcare investment here in Cheltenham.”

A spokeswoman for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Members of our Executive team Trust met with MPs Richard Graham and Alex Chalk last week with the aim of fostering a greater understanding of the issues facing our organisation at present and in the future.

“As part of the discussions we were asked about the future of the Emergency Department at Cheltenham General Hospital.

“There are no plans on the horizon to change the current A&E arrangements, which have been in place since July 2013.

“We were able to deliver reassurance about our commitment to developing services at both our sites with a mix of more specialised services which may require a focus on one of our sites and other services which will continue to be provided on both.

Mr Chalk has also pledged to lobby the Department of Health for cash to pay for modernisations works at Cheltenham General.

He believes such work is “sorely needed”.

Meanwhile Mr Chalk and Mr Graham have outlined their willingness to support the Trust’s bid to increase training opportunities for student nurses in the county.
Read more:

“Half a million facing 20-mile A&E trip in ‘crazy’ closure plans drawn up in the face of £30m funding black hole.” – Daily Mail

An article published in the Daily Mail:

“Half a million people will be left 20 miles from their nearest A& E under ‘deeply worrying’ plans to cut two neighbouring casualty units. The imminent threats are to the A& Es in Milton Keynes and Bedford, which between them serve at least 500,000 people in an area with a fast-growing population. GPs have drawn up the cost-cutting plans as they face a £30million black hole in their NHS finances. If both units close, emergency patients will have to go to Northampton, Kettering or Luton for life-saving treatment. All are at least 20 miles away from both towns.
The latest threats mean there are now 16 units across England facing the axe.

Both A& Es could close next year, despite warnings from Simon Stevens, new chief executive of the NHS, that England’s emergency services are already ‘quite concentrated’ and they should not be cut from ‘viable local hospitals’ without very careful thought. Politicians and health campaigners condemned the plans. The proposals are outlined in a new public document drawn up by Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the local NHS authorities that pay a large chunk of the hospitals’ bills. The GPs who run the groups have outlined 14 scenarios for the two hospitals. Only three involve both hospitals retaining full A& Es.”

Read the full article here.

Official Launch of REACH calls for transparency, openness and restoration of 24 hour emergency service at Cheltenham General Hospital

Are you aware that local health services in Cheltenham are under threat?

The Cheltenham Chamber are so concerned with the erosion of health services in Cheltenham that they have helped to set up and launch a local community campaign group called REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital)

The Chamber’s concerns have led them to take action when the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust decided to downgrade the 24 hour emergency service (blue light) at Cheltenham General Hospital in July. The Official Launch of REACH on 21st May this year was attended by political leaders, local businesses and local residents.

“It is vital that the people of Cheltenham and North Gloucestershire are made aware of the diminishing NHS services at Cheltenham General Hospital and in particular the reduction in overnight A&E facilities” commented Michael Ratcliffe, Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, “The lack of transparency and openness by the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust makes it very difficult to accept that the public’s best interests are being catered for.”

The meeting was opened by the Chamber’s Chief Executive, Michael Ratcliffe, who invited former NHS consultant, Mr Geoff Cox, to give a brief overview of the undermining of health services in Cheltenham over a number of years, as the transfer of ENT to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, which despite a public outcry was followed by the transfer of Paediatrics. In addition, the transfer of both non-nurse led Obstetrics and Gynaecology to Gloucester and now the current downgrading of Cheltenham’s A&E facilities.

Local Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood in officially launching REACH emphasised the need to speak out and protect Cheltenham’s local health services, particularly the restoration of a 24/7 emergency service. During question time Alex Chalk, Prospective Conservative Parliamentary Candidate agreed that  REACH had a vital role to play in ensuring that health services in Cheltenham were not further diminished.

The meeting also heard from a number of individuals explaining how the town’s downgrading of health services have directly impacted on them.

The meeting ended with an appeal from the Chair of REACH, Michael Ratcliffe, asking both those present and members of the affected communities to do 3 things:

1) Become active in REACH and help us to grow the campaign, please telephone 01242 544599 for further information

2) Write to your local paper to express your concerns and opposition to the downgrading and undermining of health services in North Gloucestershire.

3) Make a donation to REACH via their website  – or tel. 01242 544599


For further information and comment please contact Michael Ratcliffe on 01242 544549

Kevin Daws

Press & Social Media Officer

Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

Tel. 01242 228080

Launch meeting for REACH campaign

Wednesday 21 May 2014
Holiday Inn Express, 5.30 pm – 7 pm

The Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce would be delighted if you could join us on Wednesday 21 May 2014 for the launch of REACH – the Gloucestershire pressure group campaigning to restore full-time accident and emergency services at Cheltenham General Hospital.
Our keynote speaker will be local Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood.
Refreshments and a light buffet will be served.
RSVP: 01242 544549

Press Release: REACH still unhappy with hospitals’ answers at Scrutiny Committee

Press Release 20/01/2014: REACH still unhappy with hospitals’ answers at Scrutiny Committee

A representative of REACH, the campaign to restore full-time accident and emergency services at Cheltenham Hospital, attended the County Council’s Health & Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HCOSC) meeting last week and came away more unhappy than ever even though Committee members did their best to get clear answers from the NHS Trust.

David Perry, REACH Board Member commented: “The problem is that the Trust is not giving clear and transparent answers to questions about the reconfiguration of emergency services, even those from the County’s Scrutiny Committee who represent the people of Gloucestershire and are trying to hold the NHS to account on behalf of patients and the public. For example, how many Consultants are needed to staff fully functioning A&E Departments at both our hospitals?”

Michael Ratcliffe, Chair of REACH and Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce also commented: “When the Trust decided to divert most Emergency Ambulances from Cheltenham General Hospital to Gloucester Royal Hospital between 8pm and 8am every night from July last year, the Trust claimed that the A&E departments at each hospital needed 10 consultants. They repeated this at the HCOSC meeting last November.”

However, at last week’s meeting the Chief Executive of the Hospital Trust said that, having appointed two more consultants recently to bring the total to 14 consultants, only ‘about two more’ are needed. The Trust failed to make clear whether this would be sufficient to operate two full Accident and Emergency departments. If this is not the case, then it is clear the Trust has no intention of restoring a 24/7 emergency service at Cheltenham, even if it could recruit the necessary consultants, contrary to the impression given to HCOSC at its November meeting.

REACH can only hope that the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and the Hospital Trust will be more open and transparent when it comes to the six months’ review of the A&E reconfiguration which the County Council’s Health & Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be discussing this coming March.


For further information and comment please contact Michael Ratcliffe, Chair of REACH and Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce – Tel. 01242 544549


David Perry, REACH Board Member – Tel. 07770 916407

An archive of REACH press releases is available here.

Will ambulance turnarounds in Gloucestershire be taken seriously before a fatal incident?

A member of Reach wonders “Do we have to wait for an incident like this before delays in ambulance turnarounds in Gloucestershire are taken more seriously, or the ambulance service is prepared to acknowledge the impact such delays are having on their response times: “BBC NEWS: Fred Pring died while ambulances queued outside Wrexham hospital

The nationally recommended time for ambulance turnarounds is 15 minutes and ‘no ambulance turnaround should take more than an hour’. However, Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group sets the Hospital Trust two targets:

Number of ambulance handovers delayed over 30 minutes (not 15 minutes), and

Number of ambulance handovers delayed over 60 minutes.

The target for these is not ‘x’ for ‘delays of over 30 minutes’ and ‘y’ for ‘delays of over 60 minutes’, but simply ‘< previous year’ for both.

The number of ambulance handovers exceeding these limits between April and November last year were as follows:

Handover  Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec

>30 mins 131       89       77     78     98     67    101   105

>60 mins  65         8        16     19     10        9      12    10

All of the above were ‘within target’ (i.e. ‘< previous year’), with the exception of the >60 minute target in April, which was higher than the previous year, because of the prolonged winter pressure period last year compared to the year before. GCCG currently fines the Trust for ambulance handover delays on the following scale:

· 30m – 1hr £100

· 1hr-2hrs £200

· 2hrs-3hrs £300

· >3hrs £500

Up to the end of November GCCG had fined the Hospital Trust £74,600 for handovers taking >30 minutes and £30,900 for handovers taking >60 minutes.

Hospitals in Gloucestershire – performance on four-hour waiting time at A&E target

On 13th December 2013 the BBC reported that ‘The NHS in England has missed its four-hour A&E waiting time for the first time this winter, figures show. In the last week, 94.8% of patients were seen within four hours compared to 95.6% the week before. The target is 95%.
The BBC also provide an interactive system to track the performance of hospital trusts by postcode regarding this target.

Gloucestershire Hospital Trust is just about holding steady, at just below the target overall, while many other hospitals appear to be slipping, so Gloucestershire’s relative position is slightly better.

See the information at the following links:

Cheltenham General Hospital
Gloucester Royal Hospital

Press Release: Proposed withdrawal of emergency surgery at Cheltenham General Hospital?

13/12/2013: Proposed withdrawal of emergency surgery at Cheltenham General Hospital?

“The Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and REACH are deeply concerned about  the proposal for the possible withdrawal of emergency surgery at Cheltenham General Hospital” commented Michael Ratcliffe, Chair of REACH and Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, “This would be more than unfortunate for Cheltenham and would turn Cheltenham General Hospital into a hospital where major surgery is no longer performed.”

“We understand that the Trust is committed to providing two thriving hospitals in Gloucestershire and cannot see how the contents of the leaked report are consistent with this commitment.”

“Clearly we shall be looking for a clear restatement that the Trust is committed to the provision of two major acute hospitals in Gloucestershire.”

“It is important that any constructive dialogue with the Trust and the GCCG (Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group) is based on a relationship of trust which requires openness and transparency, something which appears not to have occurred to date.”


An archive of REACH press releases is available here.

For further information and comment please contact Michael Ratcliffe – Tel. 01242 544549