Cheltenham General Hospital is to close its Accident and Emergency to prepare for a potential second spike of coronavirus cases.

The hospital will become a Minor Injury and Illness Unit from 9 June after plans to send 999 admissions to the Gloucester Royal - around eight miles away - were approved.

The hospital will instead operate between 8am and 8pm seven days a week for three months - making Gloucester Royal the main base for Covid-19 patients.

Deborah Lee, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said the temporary move was "the safest option" in the event of a second coronavirus peak.

There are fears the A&E closure could become permanent. Credit: PA Images

It is the second hospital in the West Country to close its emergency department after Weston General Hospital shut its doors to curb coronavirus.

As the plans were approved by the trust's board at an online meeting, Ms Lee added that the changes "should last at least three months" but the "commitment remains" for it to return to emergency department status.

Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk, and campaign group REACH, have previously raised fears the move could become permanent.

We understand the need for temporary service changes to separate Covid and non-Covid patients.

Michael Ratcliffe, Chairman of REACH

We've had to do what's considered the right thing for all of our services, the context we have for the whole of our county noting some of the key interdepencies.

Deborah Lee, Chief Executive of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Deborah Lee added that the Gloucester Royal and Cheltenham General sites "present an immense opportunity" to reduce the risk of transmission between patients and staff.

She said: "Our two sites present an immense opportunity and that many of my colleagues around the country wish they had the opportunity to create the degree of separation between services, pathways and risks that our two sites give us.

"The two sites had introduced complexity, without a doubt, but this is a huge opportunity that many others don't have to fulfill those primary goals of reducing the risk of transmission between patients and staff, returning as many people back to safe care as we possibly can whilst ever-being prepared for a second surge should it come. I'm immensely impressed with what the team has pulled off."

The Chief Executive of the Trust which runs Cheltenham General Hospital said two sites provided an immense opportunity. Credit: PA Images

What's been approved?

  • Cheltenham General Hospital's emergency department will become an MIIU seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm

  • All 999 and undifferentiated GP referrals would be centralised at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

  • Acute medical take moved to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

  • Urology 999 front door pathway would move to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, planned and non-Covid pathways would remain at Cheltenham General Hospital

  • Radiology services at Cheltenham General Hospital would be focused on outpatient care and support a largely non-Covid bed base and ambulatory access

  • Emergency vascular service ill be moved to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital