MORE care will be provided “closer to home” for people in the south Forest area when Lydney Hospital closes, health bosses have pledged.

But councillors who called for “reassurances” over health provision in the area say their concerns have not been addressed.

County councillor Alan Preest (Aylburton and Lydney, Con) and Lydney town councillor Brian Pearman urged Gloucestershire County Council in November to obtain reassurances when the new single hospital is built in Cinderford.

But they say the response obtained six weeks later from the Gloucestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group by GCC’s Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee chairman, Cllr Carole Allaway-Martin

(Coleford, Con), appeared “devoid of any substantive plan for the South Forest are.”

Cllr Allaway-Martin told them the CCG (NHS) Trust “intend to further increase the number of outpatient services available in health centre sites in the future to support more care close to home.”

But Cllr Preest said: “Quite frankly the timescale between the original questions (November 28) and the response received (January 8)…suggests to me that the CCG (NHS) Trust are, at this time, devoid of any substantive plan for the south Forest area and that the response was merely conjured up at a whim.

“If, indeed, the process surrounding the community hospitals was entered into without a definitive series of options to cover all eventualities then there is without much doubt a mixture of negligence and incompetency playing out here.

“In the interests of concern, stability, progression and the much planned housing growth in the south Forest area, the CCG (NHS) Trust need to step up to the plate, and quickly.”

Lydney deputy mayor Cllr Pearman added: “I asked the county council to support appropriate health care for the south Forest, as there is no evidence that this is going to happen.

“They talk about a range of community health sites and have got clear proposals for primary care investment in Cinderford and Coleford with new health centres, but there’s nothing for Lydney, where the population is growing as fast as the other two towns put together.

“It’s really worrying. GPs are already nearly in crisis in the south Forest, with problems of recruitment and retention of staff.

“This response doesn’t address residents’ concerns and we’re being kept in the dark.”

The CCG (NHS) Trust pledged that while all the main services now available at Lydney and District Community Hospital – such as inpatient and outpatient services, the minor injuries and illness unit, and diagnostic services, including antenatal ultrasound appointments – would be available at the new hospital, “new health centre developments across the Forest of Dean” were also being provided, said Cllr Allaway-Martin.

“Increasingly other service developments in line with our stated strategy of delivering more care closer to home are delivered in a range of community sites including South Forest and Lydney,” the trust claimed.

“We have new health centre developments across the Forest of Dean and increasingly community based outpatients clinics are delivered from a range of these health centre settings, including in Lydney and the south Forest.

“We intend to further increase the number of outpatient services available in health centre sites in the future to support more care close to home.”

With 90 per cent of urgent health care provided at GP practices, on-the-day appointments and access slots had been “extended”, through more evening and weekend slots, meaning “more people in Lydney and the South Forest can access urgent care at their GP practice,” it was claimed.

Work was currently “ongoing… in mapping out the health care provision offer in the whole of the Forest of Dean,” and there was “an expectation that services will be offered as locally as clinically effective to do so,” said the trust.

Recent years had seen “a significant number of services... developed and enhanced” to ensure people in the Forest of Dean received local care closer to home.

These included a new renal dialysis facility in Cinderford; a chemotherapy bus which attends multiple sites in the Forest; the mobile breast screening service; ophthalmology outpatient services switching to local optometrist practices; improved mental health care via the 2gether Mental Health Trust providing a range of outpatient services at the newly developed Colliers Court hub, providing an average of more than 1,260 appointments per month; maternity outpatient and antenatal services provided from a range of health centre locations, including in Lydney, plus a supportive home birthing service, hospital care at home for older people, a range of new health and wellbeing services and extended access to on-the-day GP appointments at evenings and weekends.

“Our intention, as expressed, is to continue to work to offer support and services close to home where this can deliver safe, high quality and cost effective care, and to continue to look at options to centralise care to ‘centres of excellence’ where the evidence shows that this will provide the best clinical, health and patient safety outcomes,” said the trust.