Plans that could lead to the closure of Cheltenham General Hospital’s accident and emergency department have been temporarily paused, according to NHS chiefs, but have not been ruled out.

A media briefing was supposed to be held today about the county’s long-term plan for the NHS, including launching an public engagement process on plans to potentially downgrade Cheltenham’s A&E unit.

However Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has now said it needs to do further work ahead of asking the public for their views.

Last Friday the news was revealed after Cheltenham’s MP Alex Chalk leaked the trust’s proposals and said he was “furious” at the plan to downgrade one of the county’s main hospitals.

Mr Chalk said he found out that the briefing would include proposals to turn the walk-in casualty department at Cheltenham General Hospital into an Urgent Treatment Centre – a service which is appointment-only and led by GPs.

The trust has said no decision has been made and any significant proposals for chance would be subject to a full consultation process later this year.

Reacting to the u-turn, Mr Chalk said: “I warmly welcome this decision.

“But the trust now needs to go further and rule out downgrading Cheltenham’s A&E.

"I and the thousands of people who have contacted me will challenge any such plans every step of the way.

“Downgrading Cheltenham A&E is completely unacceptable, not just for people in Cheltenham, but for those living right across the north and east of our county.

“Time and again, NHS managers told me this wasn’t their plan – even that this was “scaremongering”.

"I am so dismayed that those assurances were hollow.

Removing Cheltenham’s A&E department, leaving the only emergency unit to be eight miles away in Gloucester, would spark widespread opposition in the town and further afield in areas such as the North Cotswolds.

Leader of the Lib Dems on Gloucestershire County Council Paul Hodgkinson said: "I am alarmed Gloucestershire’s NHS bosses have let slip that they’re planning to close Cheltenham’s A&E. "Clearly the A&E is critical for Cheltenham’s residents, but it is just as important for residents in the Cotswolds and Tewkesbury who would have to travel yet further for life-threatening injuries.

“With the manner of this announcement leaking, NHS bosses have got a long-way to go to prove that any consultation is meaningful and will be listened to. I and my council colleagues will fight hard to prevent the loss of this critical service.”

The trust said further information on the timetable of the consultation will follow in the next couple of weeks.

When the consultation does behind, the trust says a citizen’s jury will be set up and will launch an information bus.

A statement in full from NHS Gloucestershire said: “This is very much a process of engagement; we really want to hear what people think about how services could be provided in the future and have a genuine and open discussion about this.

“A range of potential solutions to support this engagement will be set out in a public discussion document, and we are planning a whole range of ways to listen to people’s views to help us draw up more specific proposals.

“No decisions have yet been made and any significant proposals for change would be subject to a full consultation process later in the year.

“Once the engagement process begins, there will be many opportunities for people to get involved and give their views, including at events across the county on the Information Bus, at workshops and a Citizen’s Jury.

“When published, the engagement booklet will also be

available online on the one gloucestershire website ( and people can also follow updates on twitter.

“In order to get the process of engagement absolutely right, we have taken the decision to temporarily pause the start of this process.

“This also follows feedback we have received from some of our stakeholders about the need to do further work in advance of the engagement launch to avoid any unintended confusion between the launch of this engagement process and the formal public consultation planned towards the end of the year.

“Further information on the new timetable will follow in the next couple of weeks.”