CAMPAIGNERS have praised plans to restore the provision of general beds at the Vale Hospital in Dursley.

Concerns had been raised that the beds - which are for those who need to recuperate from illness or surgery or for end of life care - would be permanently reassigned to the Vale's stroke unit.

Originally there were 16 general beds at the hospital but in 2019, it was decided to take 10 of them to create a stroke unit, leaving six general beds.

And then, during the Covid crisis, all the general beds were reassigned to the stroke unit.

The fear was that the stroke unit would be expanded and the beds would remain part of it.

But at a meeting of Gloucestershire's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee held earlier this month, it was decided that the six beds would return to community use.

Berkeley town councillor Liz Ashton, who campaigned to restore the general beds, described the move as "an excellent decision for our community".

"For people in our area whose friends and relations have been unfortunate enough to spend time in hospital, the past year has been a very difficult time," she said.

"The lack of community beds at the Vale meant patients were sent to hospitals as far away as Cirencester, Tewksbury and the Forest of Dean to recuperate or for end of life care.

"As anyone who has spent time in hospital will know, visiting time is the most important part of the day for both patients and their families.

"However, public transport from our area to these locations just doesn’t exist: this puts a particular strain on older people who’ve given up their cars. A taxi from the Berkeley area to Cirencester hospital, for example, costs £80 a trip: an enormous amount to find from a pension.

"Thanks to a strong campaign by members of the community and particularly the League of Friends of the Vale Hospital, the decision was made to restore six community beds at the Vale for the benefit of local people."

In a joint statement, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said: "The intention remains to reverse the temporary emergency change and return the Stroke Rehabilitation bed numbers to 14 (from 20 under the temporary change), to be completed at a time when this can be achieved safely.

"This requires a time limited extension of the temporary service change. A further update will be given within the next three months."