Cheltenham General Hospital's A&E could close to emergency admissions during coronavirus pandemic

Cheltenham General Hospital could close its A&E department to all 999 and GP emergency admissions.

The move - which health chiefs are calling temporary - is to help the county's response to coronavirus.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed the plan which could see Gloucestershire Royal Hospital's A&E become the primary centre for the county's emergency admissions and suspected coronavirus cases.

It could mean Cheltenham General Hospital's emergency department would be only open to patients with minor injuries who are not displaying coronavirus symptoms.

There are fears the move could become permanent. Credit: PA

Health chiefs say it would be a temporary measure in order to reduce the risk of transmission between patients.

A spokesman for Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: "We believe this approach will limit the risk of transmission within our hospitals, will give confidence to our local population that our hospitals are safe places to visit and will maximise the amount of non-Covid-19 care we can resume including returning to former levels of cancer surgery."

Conservative MP for Cheltenham, Alex Chalk. Credit: PA

Cheltenham's Conservative MP Alex Chalk has raised fears the move could become permanent.

He said: "How can we be sure Cheltenham A&E will re-open, given that Covid-19 will likely be with us for some time.

"Common sense tells you that the longer any service is suspended, the more difficult it is to reinstate.

"Shifts change, clinical staff make personal and professional adjustments, which means that suspensions can't always be reversed at the drop of a hat."

Gloucestershire Hospitals added: "If approved, these proposals would be established on a temporary basis for an initial three month period, at which point the ongoing necessity of the changes would be reviewed."