Pressure group meets county decision makers over its safety concerns at Gloucestershire hospitals

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 15 July 2020 8:15

Pressure group meets county decision makers over its safety concerns at Gloucestershire hospitals

A pressure group including Cheltenham business people made its voice heard again when it met with borough decision makers over the closure of the town hospital’s A&E department. 

Restore Emergency at Cheltenham General Hospital (REACH) gave a presentation to the Gloucestershire County Council Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), 

REACH wanted to raise what it called “raises serious safety concerns about current arrangements for surgery in Gloucestershire and shares highlights of a recent survey”. 

The safety concerns are expressed in the context of a study that has shown that 20 per cent of planned surgical patients, who get COVID-19, die within 30 days. 

Michael Ratcliffe, MBE, chairman of REACH, board member of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce and founder of MR Ratcliffe Consultants Ltd, said: “We fully recognise the need to restart planned surgery post COVID. It is vital however that this is conducted in a manner that is as safe as possible. 

“We have some very grave concerns about the current arrangements and felt that HOSC given its oversight role should be made aware of these. 

“We also felt strongly that in the absence of any public consultation being conducted by the Trust (Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust), the public should be given the opportunity to express their views about the current situation, which is why we conducted this survey and are today sharing the highlights”. 

REACH lists its concerns as follows: 

- Continuation of major planned surgery at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital is against national advice, when a COVID-free site and Intensive Care Unit is available at Cheltenham General Hospital. 

- Illogical transfer of arterial vascular surgery from Cheltenham General Hospital to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, when we have a state-of-the-art vascular unit at Cheltenham General Hospital. 

- Potential mixing and therefore COVID contamination of planned and emergency surgical patients on Levels two and five in Gloucestershire Royal Hospital Tower Block. 

- Removal of emergency theatre at Cheltenham General Hospital, necessitating transfer of planned Cheltenham General Hospital surgical patients with complications to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. 

According to REACH the survey, conducted over the last three weeks, found: 

- 97 per cent of all respondents said that it was important to be made aware of COVID risks during surgery. 

- 28 per cent of patients (either had surgery during COVID or on a waiting list) have been informed about the risks of surgery during COVID. 

- 29 per cent of respondents said that Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had separated elective and emergency facilities satisfactorily.    

- 28 per cent of patients currently on waiting list would have elective surgery during COVID, if fully informed 

- 17 per cent of respondents would be prepared to have elective surgery at a hospital which has been designated as a receiving hospital for COVID patients, if fully informed. 

The REACH Survey was conducted between June 18 and July 13, 2020, and had 513 responses. Almost 97 per cent of the survey responses stated that they were within the catchment area of Cheltenham General Hospital