Partial U-turn or Misleading Clarification? REACH & Cheltenham Chamber insist upon ‘openness and transparency’

REACH issued a new press release 25/11/2013. An archive of REACH press releases is available here.

Partial U-turn or Misleading Clarification? REACH & Cheltenham Chamber insist upon ‘openness and transparency’

At the Health & Care Overview Scrutiny Committee on 6th November, the Hospital Trust revealed minor changes to its policy of diverting ambulances to Gloucester overnight. ‘Non-blue light’ ambulances and ambulances carrying ‘medically stable patients from the East of the county’ will now be allowed to go directly to Cheltenham overnight.

This is certainly a variation from the original policy, even if it does not constitute a complete ‘U-turn’. REACH is concerned that these changes still mean the A&E Department at Cheltenham has been downgraded to the status of a Minor Injuries Unit overnight and there are no A&E Doctors on duty, for ambulance or walk-in patients. REACH is also concerned that such patients may be admitted directly to the new Assessment Unit, thus by-passing the emergency department so they are not included in A&E statistics for the Trust.

Following press reports that Gloucestershire Hospital Trust had performed a ‘Partial U-turn’, which was welcomed by both REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital) and Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, REACH was surprised by the Press Statement issued by the Trust the following day, on 7th November, to clarify their position. In this Dr Llewellyn, Director of Emergency Medicine, denied there had been any “climb-down or U-turn” and claimed that “As part of the original consultation which we staged earlier in the year we said we would develop other services at Cheltenham. We said we would develop an admissions pathway for stable medical patients so that people from the east of the county could access more stable, medical care.”

Members of REACH were unable to find any references to these changes in the ‘Full engagement booklet: Proposals for change’ which formed the basis of the original consultation. So Michael Ratcliffe, Chair of REACH and Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, wrote to Dr Llewellyn on 13th November giving him the opportunity to clarify where these proposals were included in the “original consultation” (Details below).

To date (Monday 25th November) REACH has not yet received a reply from Dr Llewellyn (who says it will take him until at least the end of this week to respond). It appears the Trust is able to issue a Press Statement within 24 hours when it wants to, but is unable to answer questions about it from members of the public within two weeks. The Trust claims to have a policy of ‘openness and transparency’ and REACH would like them to demonstrate this. In the absence of a reply, REACH has decided to put the questions to Dr Llewellyn and the Trust into the public domain. We asked him to advise where in the consultation document it says the Trust:

* “…would develop other services at Cheltenham”

* “…would develop an admissions pathway for stable medical patients so that people from the east of the county could access more stable, medical care.” (could you also please clarify what is meant by “stable, medical care”).

* would be “opening (a) new assessment unit at Cheltenham.”

* would be closing the eight trauma beds at Cheltenham.

If there is another consultation document which contains this information, please provide a copy.

If the debate about emergency services in Gloucestershire is to be an ‘open and transparent’ one, the Trust is going to have to be a lot more open about what it is doing and a lot more transparent about what impact this is having on patients and other parts of the health service. Even the Health & Care Overview Scrutiny Committee commented that “the committee was clear that the information presented by the Hospital Trust was not sufficiently detailed to help members understand what the impact (positive or negative) is on the patient experience; and did not include the most recent data. Members also felt that these reports were not easily understandable to members of the public and have requested that this report (from the Hospital Trust) is rewritten and represented Members have requested that this and future reports should include more information from the ambulance service.”

REACH feels that the whole public consultation process and press statements from the Trust about reconfiguration of emergency services have been like this – putting a PR spin on it – hence our request for clarification of Dr Llewellyn’s Press Statement.

ENDS

For further information and comment please contact Michael Ratcliffe on 01242 228080

An archive of REACH press releases is available here.

 

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Press Release 15/11/13: “Cost cutting or Service Improvement? REACH reaction to the Keogh Report”

Please see below our most recent press release. An archive of previous press releases is available by clicking here.

REACH reaction to the Keogh Report: Cost cutting or Service Improvement?

The training of A&E Doctors takes at least seven years and even longer for Consultants. So the current shortage across the country is the result of a failure to train and retain enough A&E Doctors and Consultants over many years, with no sign of enough being done to reverse this trend. This has coincided with increasing attendances at A&E departments, putting more pressure on staff. Recent reports have highlighted that this and better opportunities abroad has also led to a ‘brain-drain’ of A&E specialists. [the first paragraph of this press release has been revised slightly since initial publication]

REACH is disappointed that NHS England’s proposed solution to this, largely self-inflicted crisis, should be to downgrade permanently between 70 and 100 A&E departments to ‘Emergency Centres’. These may only have the status of Minor Injuries Units, staffed by Emergency Nurse Practitioners with no specialist A&E doctors on duty.

This is what has already happened overnight at Cheltenham General Hospital, which no longer accepts ‘blue-light ambulances’ overnight (except for cardiac cases) and has no A&E doctors on duty overnight.

REACH accepts that many patients who go to A&E could and should be treated elsewhere and welcomes NHS England’s proposals to improve other health care provision. These proposals should be implemented, before any further reconfiguration of A&E services is carried out, so the underlying demand for A&E services can be properly assessed.

The real long-term solution would be to train sufficient A&E doctors to meet patients’ genuine needs, while at the same time trying to improve the other NHS services. This should reduce the number of patients who use A&E to ‘plug other holes’ in the NHS. Planned properly it should be possible to reach a balance, where the number of A&E doctors and the number and distribution of A&E departments meets the needs of patients – including patients from Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.

The BBC’s report on NHS England’s latest proposals acknowledges that “This is likely to end up a controversial process because of the fear some hospitals could lose services.” Already patients groups up and down the country have opposed the closure and downgrading of A&E departments. It is certainly one of the fears which most opponents of the overnight downgrading of A&E at Cheltenham have expressed recently, including supporters of REACH.

REACH recognises that Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust may have had no alternative to the temporary overnight downgrading of A&E at Cheltenham, because of the current difficulty in recruiting sufficient A&E doctors and consultants, but believes the aim should be to restore a full 24/7 A&E service at Cheltenham General Hospital as soon as possible.

In the light of Sir Bruce Keogh’s report, REACH is afraid that, far from Emergency Services being restored, Cheltenham may face further downgrading, not just of A&E, but of other major surgical services currently provided in Cheltenham.

REACH is also concerned that one motive for downgrading A&E departments, both nationally and locally, is likely to be ‘cost cutting’, rather than providing ‘High Quality Care for All’.

All too often these days the NHS tries to cover up real cuts in services by claiming they are designed to deliver unsubstantiated ‘improvements for patients’ – so much so that it is hard to believe any claims of ‘service improvements’ when services are being downgraded or closed.

ENDS

For further information or comment contact Michael Ratcliffe on 01242 544549

REACH – ‘A TWO TIER A&E SYSTEM’

The current crisis in A&E departments across the country, is entirely due to the failure of successive government, DH and NHS policies over a long period. REACH is disappointed that NHS England’s proposed solution to this, largely self-inflicted crisis should be to downgrade permanently between 70 and 100 A&E departments to ‘Emergency Centres’. These may only have the status of Minor Injuries Units, staffed by Emergency Nurse Practitioners with no specialist A&E doctors on duty.

This is what has already happened overnight at Cheltenham General Hospital, which no longer accepts ‘blue-light ambulances’ overnight (except for cardiac cases) and has no A&E doctors on duty overnight.

REACH accepts that many patients who go to A&E could and should be treated elsewhere and welcomes NHS England’s proposals to improve other health care provision. These proposals should be implemented, before any further reconfiguration of A&E services is carried out, so the underlying demand for A&E services can be properly assessed.

The real long-term solution would be to train sufficient A&E doctors to meet patients’ genuine needs, while at the same time trying to improve the other NHS services. This should reduce the number of patients who use A&E to ‘plug other holes’ in the NHS. Planned properly it should be possible to reach a balance, where the number of A&E doctors and the number and distribution of A&E departments meets the needs of patients – including patients from Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.

The BBC’s report on NHS England’s latest proposals acknowledges that “This is likely to end up a controversial process because of the fear some hospitals could lose services.” Already patients groups up and down the country have opposed the closure and downgrading of A&E departments. It is certainly one of the fears which most opponents of the overnight downgrading of A&E at Cheltenham have expressed recently, including supporters of REACH.

REACH accepts that Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust may have had no alternative to the temporary overnight downgrading of A&E at Cheltenham, because of the current difficulty in recruiting sufficient A&E doctors and consultants, but believes the aim should be to restore a full 24/7 A&E service at Cheltenham General Hospital as soon as possible. In the light of Sir Bruce Keogh’s report, REACH is afraid that, far from Emergency Services being restored, Cheltenham may face further downgrading, not just of A&E, but of other major surgical services currently provided in Cheltenham.

The campaign to Restore Emergency At Cheltenham Hospital (REACH) can be contacted via Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, at the address below, or via: www.reachnow.org.uk Email: Julia@REACHnow.org.uk| Telephone: 01242 544599)

 

For and on behalf of

Michael Ratcliffe

Chair of REACH (Restore Emergency At Cheltenham Hospital)

Chief Executive Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

Wolseley House

Cheltenham

GL50 1TH

England

Partial U-turn welcomed by Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and REACH

Press Release 07/11/2013: Partial U-turn welcomed by Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital)

HEALTH chiefs have performed a partial u-turn on the controversial decision to stop ambulance drop-offs at Cheltenham General Hospital at night. From Monday, some stable patients from the east of the county will now be taken to A&E in Cheltenham, rather than Gloucester.

“If this is the first step on the road back to common sense prevailing I’m very pleased indeed, because it does affect some 200,000 residents in North Gloucestershire.” commented Michael Ratcliffe, Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce “We shall continue the battle until success is assured!”

See the full press release here and coverage by BBC Points West here (from 8minutes, 45 seconds – available until 6:59PM Thu, 7 Nov 2013)

Campaign against Downgrading of Cheltenham A&E gathers pace: Moreton-in-Marsh Business Association join

The Moreton-in-Marsh Business Association has written to Dr Helen Miller, Chair of the Gloucestershire Care Commissioning Group (GCCG) to express their concerns about the changes to the accident and emergency services at Cheltenham General Hospital (CGH). They have also expressed their support for the action group REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital) and its campaign for the restoration of a full, 24-hour A&E services at CGH.

“We welcome and thank the Moreton-in-Marsh Business Association for their support” commented Michael Ratcliffe, Chairman of REACH “Their letter to Dr Miller is very powerful and makes the case most strongly for the restoration of the 24-hour A&E services at Cheltenham General Hospital.

Please follow the link below to a full press release: 07/11/2013: Campaign against Downgrading of Cheltenham A&E gathers pace

Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce Letter to Cllr Stephen Lydon, Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee 04/11/13

Chelltenham Chamber of Commerce have sent a Letter to Cllr Stephen Lydon – Chair of Gloucestershire County Council’s Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee 04/11/13 (pdf), requesting a Task Force investigating relationships between organising provided local emergency services. The letter is available by clicking the link, and contains the following: “Under Items 9 and 10 of HCOSC’s agenda for next week’s meeting we would be most  grateful if you would consider setting up a Task Force to investigate the triangular relationship between the Hospital’s A&E Departments , the Emergency Ambulance Service and the new 111 service concerning the performance each of these have on the services to patients provided by the other parties”