1 Apr 2020, 7:55 a.m.

In response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the NHS in Gloucestershire has taken a number of temporary measures to help ensure it can continue to provide safe patient care.

In line with national guidance, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has:

  • restricted visiting at its 2 main hospitals in Gloucester and Cheltenham
  • reduced the number of face to face outpatient appointments in favour of video conferencing and phone calls
  • reduced planned operations, prioritising vital life and limb saving procedures such as cancer treatments and vascular surgery

System partners have established a number of GP community hubs in health centres and surgeries across the county, to support patients who need face to face medical support as well as making changes to minor injury and illness units at key community hospitals.

As part of our COVID-19 plans to ensure continuity of essential services, we are continually reviewing arrangements and taking responsible and necessary steps to put patient care and safety first. .

Given the fragile nature of our emergency general surgery service, it became clear that this service will soon become unsustainable given the impact COVID-19 will inevitably have on staffing levels, particularly medical staffing. 

In response to this, the Board of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust met on Wednesday 25 March 2020 and approved a proposal to centralise emergency general surgery on the Gloucestershire Royal Site, should it be predicted safe staffing parameters can no longer be met.

We can confirm these parameters can no longer be met and the emergency general surgery service will centralise at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital (GRH) from 8am on Wednesday 1st April.

The ambulance service (SWASFT) have been asked to take all patients with non-specific abdominal pain to the GRH site, where they can be received in the emergency department and assessed on the Surgical Assessment Unit and admitted to hospital or discharged as required.

GPs, minor injury and illness units and ambulance colleagues are aware, and patients who self-present at the emergency department in Cheltenham and need specialist surgical care will be redirected or conveyed by ambulance.

As the move is a response to COVID-19, it will be introduced as an emergency service change. Any future substantive (permanent) change would remain subject to public consultation.

Dr Simon Dwerryhouse, Consultant Surgeon, said: “As part of our contingency planning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are centralising emergency general surgery on the GRH site.

"This will give us the best possible opportunity of providing a safe, sustainable service to patients in Gloucestershire throughout these challenging times.”

Preparations for COVID-19 are continuing at pace and we believe the changes we are making across the board will ensure we are as well prepared as we possibly can be for our patients and staff in response to this unprecedented situation.