Gloucestershire

MP's major incident claims over Cheltenham A&E overnight closure

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
Image caption An NHS spokesperson said 30% of people arriving at A&E had "non-urgent ailments"

The decision to close Cheltenham's A&E department overnight has contributed to two hospitals declaring major incidents, an MP has claimed.

It is the second time in a month Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has declared the status.

Martin Horwood, Lib Dem MP for Cheltenham, said winter pressures were made worse "by management decisions".

Major incident status has been declared at several hospitals in England.

Staff are struggling to cope with the number of patients seeking emergency care.

Image caption Patients were waiting for just over an hour to been seen by a doctor on Tuesday

Mr Horwood said people arriving at Cheltenham General had to wait hours to see a doctor as, since August 2013, there were no longer any emergency doctors providing overnight cover there.

He said Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had implemented a system which took all unplanned admissions and routed them through A&E.

"You can see how the natural pressures of wintertime are being compounded by some of the management decisions that have been taken," said Mr Horwood.

A Gloucestershire Hospitals spokesman said it was "not immune" to the national shortage in emergency doctors but insisted as a trust, it had taken "a number of positive steps which had helped preserve high quality emergency care in Gloucestershire".

NHS figures show 30% of people using the two A&E departments had "non-urgent ailments".

At the scene: David Bailey, BBC News

Outwardly, there doesn't seem to be a major problem at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital's A&E department.

On Tuesday afternoon it was busy but not obviously more so than usual.

Five ambulances were parked outside the entrance to A&E and I saw one patient on a stretcher being wheeled inside.

At 16:30 GMT 27 patients were having to wait for up to 68 minutes to be seen.

One patient, Eleri Davies, 17, spent about an hour waiting with a sprained ankle.

"The wait hasn't been that bad. I was expecting it to be ages but it wasn't," she said.

Another patient, Laurence Harrington, 36, a tree surgeon from Gloucester, was treated after cutting his hand while cutting down a tree.

"I've had about five or six stitches. I was in and out in an hour," he said.

Labour councillor David Drew, who sits on Gloucestershire's Health Scrutiny Committee, said investigations into the situation would be made.

"Is it a lack of capacity or a series of problems that have blown up like a perfect storm?" he said.

Mr Drew said a meeting before Christmas appeared to suggest there was a "breakdown between the acute trust and the other parts of the health family".

"The biggest worry is nobody is in control of this - we've got to be doing something about this urgently."

Image caption Several ambulances were parked outside the A&E department on Tuesday afternoon

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