Agenda item

Feedback from other scrutiny meetings attended

Gloucestershire Health O&S Committee (17/11 and 12/01) – update from Councillor Horwood (to follow)


Gloucestershire Economic Growth O&S Committee (18/11) – update from Councillor Paul McCloskey


Police and Crime Panel (06/11)   - update from Councillor Jonny Brownsteen


The Chairman reminded members that updates on recent meetings of the Police and Crime Panel and Gloucestershire Economic Growth scrutiny committee, had been circulated with the agenda and members were asked to contact the relevant member directly with any questions.


Councillor Horwood apologised for not having circulated anything in advance of the meeting, citing IT issues.  His written update is attached at Appendix 1 and he read this to the committee. 


A member shared her experience of Gloucester A&E prior to the pandemic and having had to wait 4 hours to be admitted, whilst enormously busy, she was struck by how incredibly kind and upbeat all staff were.  She had discussed the delays with the ambulance staff who had suggested that the main cause for delays was the fact that Cheltenham had been closed.  Councillor Horwood echoed these sentiments and confirmed that there was universal praise for NHS frontline and management staff who were coping well under an enormous amount of stress. He explained that delays in handovers from ambulance to A&E were due to the fact that given the high occupancy of hospital beds, there was a shortage of beds to which A&E patients could be moved, and new patients couldn’t be admitted to A&E until those patients had been moved out.  He assured this committee that HOSC did challenge whether such delays were due, in part, to the closure of Cheltenham and were always told this was not the case, but he felt that it was evident that waiting times were deteriorating, even back in July and August, when the pandemic was at its lowest.  Whilst there was a commitment to reopen Cheltenham on the previous basis, he had concerns about how this would operate and how resilient it would be.  He suggested that there was an option for HOSC to refer the issue to the Care Quality Commission but noted that now was probably not the best time to do such a thing.


Another member queried whether the HOSC could challenge the emphasis that was given to efficiency within the NHS generally, over resilience.  He argued that a degree of slack within the system was a good thing, citing Germany which had three times as many hospital beds as this country.  Councillor Horwood felt this was a perceptive analysis.  He and other HOSC members were worried that the reconfiguration and centralisation of key services would result in Cheltenham running as a cold site, with lots of planned appointments and surgery, highly efficient, but with minimal margin for error and resilience issues when something out of the ordinary occurs at Gloucester. 


He highlighted his growing scepticism about the ability of HOSC to actually challenge these things.  It seemed to him that in reality HOSC had few powers apart from being able to refer matters to the Secretary of State and felt that they were regularly provided with data and reports that tended to support whatever the management plan was.  He suggested that it would be for Cheltenham to raise this issue with higher political powers or scrutiny bodies nationally, if this was to be challenged.


There were no further questions and the Chair thanked Councillor Horwood for his update. 

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