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.
For further information and comment please contact Michael Ratcliffe on 01242 228080
An archive of REACH press releases is available here.