Throughout my time as the Forest’s MP, I have been a strong advocate of delivering as many healthcare services as possible within our area. The construction of the new ‘Forest of Dean Community Hospital’, which will be based on Steam Mills Road in Cinderford, represents a huge step forward in this regard, and that is why I was delighted to visit the site of the hospital recently.
Once constructed, this modern and purpose-built hospital will be able to deliver a wider array of treatments to my constituents, some of which have not been accessible within the Forest of Dean up until this point. These include, among others, X-ray services and radiology, a Minor Injuries unit, ultrasound services and outpatients’ clinics, endoscopy treatment and a purpose-built therapy gym for rehabilitation. The hospital will also provide a separate children’s waiting area and a children’s clinic. This means that many people within the Forest will no longer have to make the trip to Gloucester or Cheltenham to receive specific treatments.
I would like to commend all the work completed by both the Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust and our local Integrated Care Board in setting out the business case for this new hospital and seeing it through to this stage.
A key part of this work has been addressing the issue of bed capacity. Previously, around half of the hospital beds within the Forest of Dean, located at the Dilke and Lydney, were being occupied by patients ‘imported’ from other localities in Gloucestershire, mainly from the Gloucester city area. In response to this issue, the Health and Care Trust have now commissioned over 100 beds in the private and care home sector across the County, as well as 66 virtual ward beds, with an intention to reach 223 beds by December 2023. This action will ensure that the new community hospital will be treating primarily Forest residents.
The construction of the hospital is now entering its final stages and planning is underway to transfer equipment and staff to the site. The hospital will be open for use next year, and I look forward to seeing it in operation and treating my constituents in the years to come.
This column was first published in The Forester newspaper.