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Media Enquiries/Press Releases

For media enquiries please contact: jo@REACHnow.org.uk| Telephone: 01242 544599

Press Releases are collated in reverse order below:

06/06/2014: 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  – www.reachnow.org.uk or tel. 01242 544599

ENDS

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

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.

ENDS

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.”

ENDS

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

25/11/2013: 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

07/11/2013: 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

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!”

It is believed that bosses at the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have sanctioned the move following pressure from campaigners and patient groups who have spoken out against the reconfiguration of emergency services. Coincidentally the partial u-turn followed a letter being sent by Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital) to County Councillor Steven Lydon, Chair of the Health & Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee calling for the committee to set up a Task Group 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.

ENDS

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

Notes to Editors

Michael Ratcliffe is Chair of REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital) and Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

Kevin Daws Press & Social Media Officer, Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, Tel. 01242 228080

07/11/2013: Campaign against Downgrading of Cheltenham A&E gathers pace

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.

“The 3600+ residents of Moreton-in-Marsh will be adversely affected by the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to reduce night-time A&E services, a decision that we believe was taken without adequate public consultation.” Commented Kit Havelock-Davies, Chair of Moreton-in-Marsh Business Association “With only one full 24/7 A&E facility at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH) serving the whole of Gloucestershire this now means that people from this area face a journey time in excess of 55 minutes to reach a hospital located over 30 miles distant. In such circumstances we believe that this will lead to additional unnecessary fatalities in this region and is therefore unacceptable to the businesses and residents of our town.”

“We understand that as GRH is now the only hospital serving Gloucestershire for major A&E trauma cases these may well be diverted to Bristol or other hospitals outside the County. It appears that to reduce this occurrence the daytime GRH patients are now being diverted to Cheltenham, so that bed space is available at GRH after 8pm. Surely this is a waste of time and valuable resources let alone a major inconvenience for both patients and staff.” continued Kit Havelock-Davies “The GCCG is in existence to benefit Gloucestershire’s population and we certainly hope that you will understand the extent of our concern and the businesses that we represent. We look for assurance that this is not just a further step towards the downgrading of CGH to a Minor Injuries Unit, which would be a retrograde step for the some 200,000 residents of North Gloucestershire. We call upon the GCCG to now take action on our behalf and restore the 24-hour A&E services at Cheltenham General Hospital.”

ENDS

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

Notes to Editors Michael Ratcliffe is Chair of REACH (Restore Emergency at Cheltenham Hospital) and Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

Kevin Daws Press & Social Media Officer Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce Tel. 01242 228080

09/08/2013: Fully Functioning A&E at Cheltenham General Hospital

Yesterday a number of residents and local business representatives came together to express their concerns about the overnight closure of the A&E Department at Cheltenham General Hospital and to consider what actions should be taken in response.

There was clear and unanimous opposition to the decision by the Gloucestershire Care Commissioning Group (GCCG) to divert Emergency Ambulances from Cheltenham General Hospital to Gloucester Royal Hospital between 8.00pm and 8.00am every day.

The meeting agreed that they wished to:

  1. Get a fully staffed and fully functioning A&E Department reinstated at Cheltenham General Hospital 24 hours a day as soon as possible.
  2. Confirm with the GCCG that the decision to downgrade the A&E Department was taken solely as a result of the lack of suitable members of staff and to understand what steps would be taken to reverse the current position with regards to the recruitment and retention of staff; and
  3. Highlight the flawed nature of the consultation process and the lack of transparency of the process.

A steering group has been formed to take forward the campaign to get a fully functioning A&E Department reinstated at Cheltenham General Hospital.

The Chair of the Steering Group is the Chief Executive of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, Michael Ratcliffe

“We welcome the fact that the campaign has now been broadened to include local MP Martin Horwood; NHS Community Representatives; local campaign group 38 Degrees Gloucestershire; local law firm Harrison Clark Rickerbys as well as representatives of the Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and other public and private sector bodies.”

“The decision to down grade the A&E Department at Cheltenham General Hospital does not just affect over 120,000 people in Cheltenham it also affects 80,000 people in Tewkesbury and thousands in the North Cotswold area. We should remember that if Gloucester cannot cope with all the emergency ambulances sent to them then the next nearest hospital is probably Bristol rather than Cheltenham. We will work together to get a fully functioning A&E Department at Cheltenham General Hospital.”

Martin Horwood MP commented:

“I’m very pleased to have been part of this meeting. If anything, the anger at this decision – and the way it was taken – seems to be growing. The group that is coming together has formidable medical, legal and campaigning expertise. And we all want to see the future of A&E at Cheltenham protected.”

David Perry commented:

 “38 Degrees Gloucestershire are delighted to be part of such an influential group coming together to challenge our Clinical Commissioning Group to follow due process in arriving at decisions on behalf of the people of Gloucestershire. We look for far more transparency in future.”

ENDS

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

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