In January, Cheltenham GP Dr Phillip Fielding, chair of the county’s local medical committee told the Echo that Cheltenham`s A&E “will close”.
1 in 10 A&Es in England are under threat as a massive £20bn is cut from the NHS budget, some have already closed with devastating results.
The closure of A & E at Cheltenham would leave Gloucestershire with one A & E department to serve the whole county – yet ambulances are increasingly being diverted from Gloucester Royal Hospital (GRH) to Cheltenham General as GRH is unable to cope with current demand!
The downgrading of both children’s and maternity services at Cheltenham General Hospital are examples of what can happen when cutbacks start to bite, but the scale of the cuts to the NHS budget announced in 2010 is unprecedented.
The real concern now is whether the A&E unit will be downgraded into a minor injuries unit.
Waiting times have already increased
A report published in February by The King’s Fund charity said that between October and December last year the proportion of patients waiting more than four hours was at its highest level since 2003.
Researchers said as financial pressures continue to “bite hard” on the health service there was growing pressure on emergency care.
Where A&Es have already closed the results are disturbing, one paramedic from Hertfordshire said A&E closures meant ambulances were spending hours outside hospitals waiting to hand over patients. “It’s madness,” he said. “The crews are stuck at the hospitals because the hospitals don’t have enough staff to cope because A&E wards are being closed down”
“It’s frustrating because we know we could be helping more people but we can’t leave the patients at the hospital with no one to look after them.”
In Newark, Nottinghamshire, the closure of the A&E unit has caused the average time between 999 call and admission to a ward to soar from 90 minutes to over two hours.
The delay means paramedics have to administer blood-thinning drugs to heart patients – which prohibits the best treatment: the insertion of a ‘stent’ to open a coronary artery. Adrian Gilbert of the Association of Professional Ambulance Personnel said: “The closure of A&E departments means ambulances have to go further afield and patients’ treatment is delayed. In the end it is the patients who are suffering and reducing the number of ambulances is only making things worse.”
The arguments of the government and NHS bosses don`t hold water!
The usual argument for closures is to concentrate A&E in big hospitals that can provide specialist care for conditions such as stroke, head injuries and heart attacks. In fact, experts say this applies only to a small minority of patients: in at least 90 per cent of life-threatening cases, the critical factor is speed in getting treatment. The Mail on Sunday obtained documents in September 2012 which show that, even for patients who could benefit from specialist centres, speed is just as important.
How we`ve been deceived about changes to the NHS
The cutbacks to A&E are just one of the many expensive changes being inflicted on our NHS which are estimated to cost £3bn of taxpayers money in total. David Cameron had pledged that there would be: “No more pointless and disruptive reorganisations”. Instead, he said change would be: “Driven by the wishes and needs of NHS professionals and patients.” The coalition agreement between the Tories and the Lib Dems of May 2010 had promised: “We will stop the top-down reorganisation of the NHS.”
That promise has been well and truly smashed!
The former Conservative minister Michael Portillo explained to the BBC in January 2011 why his party kept quiet about their plans for the NHS at election time:
“They did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do because people are so wedded to the NHS.”
We can only save our NHS with a mass campaign – please get involved with your local groups to fight for the services we all rely on!