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Gloucestershire Business News

Cheltenham hospital becomes minor injury unit in virus changes

Temporary changes to services at Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General Hospitals will help ensure better and safer care for patients during the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic, according to clinicians.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust's board backed proposals by its clinical teams which include changes to the way emergency care and other specialist services will be delivered.

From Tuesday, June 9, all 999 ambulances and patients referred by their GP for likely admission will be directed to Gloucester where rapid testing will be available alongside separate COVID and non-COVID assessment and admission areas.

Cheltenham's emergency department will become a Minor Injuries and Illness Unit from 8am-8pm and will be closed overnight during the temporary period.

An enhanced Ambulatory Emergency Care service at Cheltenham will operate on weekdays from 8am-6pm for patients referred by their GP who require specialist review but are unlikely to require admission and to enable previously discharged patients to be followed up in CGH.

Director of quality and chief nurse Professor Steve Hams said: "The changes to our emergency departments have come about after much discussion.

"We have had to balance the temporary reduction in service for the small numbers of patients who attend Cheltenham ED overnight with the wider goal of ensuring staffing is safe and that our clinicans are not required to continue to work the additional hours that have characterised recent weeks.

"Maintaining staff well-being has never been more important."

The trust says the changes have been driven by the goal of minimising the risk of transmission of the virus and remaining prepared for a second wave.

Director of safety and medical director Professor Mark Pietroni said: "COVID-19 has caused a huge upheaval and in response to this pandemic all of us are having to find different ways of doing things whether in our professional working lives or personal lives.

"At our hospitals the challenge and the balance that we are striking is in finding the right way to increase vital services such as cancer surgery and specialist diagnostic tests while continuing to manage COVID-19 in the community and being prepared for a second surge.

"The layout of Gloucestershire Royal Emergency Department and its critical care unit means it is considerably easier to separate confirmed non-COVID patients from confirmed and suspected COVID patients."

He continued: "These changes allow us to establish a non-COVID critical care department and specialist imaging department at Cheltenham General Hospital thus enabling us to retain complex cancer surgery locally whilst enabling elderly and shielded patients to access diagnostic care, with minimal risk."

The temporary changes are enacted on a three-monthly basis before the have to be reviewed.

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