COUNCILLORS are pushing NHS authorities to promise that cuts to x-ray services will not be permanent.

In November, the working hours of the North Cotswolds Community Hospital x-ray services were cut from 30 hours per week to 16. Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the change was unavoidable due to staffing issues in the radiology department.

Gloucestershire County Council recently received a petition from users of the hospital, calling for the reinstatement of the x-ray services. Debated at the Health and Care Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) on Tuesday, Cllr Joe Harris requested that HOSC write to the CCG and Hospitals Foundation Trust, to seek written assurance that the change to x-ray services are not made permanent.

Recalling the claims of “temporary changes” that led to permanent alterations to Cheltenham General Hospital and Cirencester Hospital, the request was passed by a majority of councillors sitting on HOSC. The committee will subsequently write to Gloucestershire senior health directors requesting a written commitment that this will not happen to x-ray services.

Cllr Joe Harris (Cirencester Park), said: “The NHS is under increasing funding pressures year on year, so I have nothing but respect for the health chiefs trying to tackle the challenges to Gloucestershire’s NHS offer, including filling the high vacancy levels of radiographers in the county.

“That said, we have seen a record of ‘temporary’ changes becoming permanent in both Cheltenham and Cirencester, and residents will be suitably dubious of verbal commitments that these changes will not become the de facto offer in our community hospitals.

“I am pleased that HOSC members accepted my request to write a letter to the CCG and Foundation Trust, asking for written assurance that x-ray services will be reinstated as soon as possible and that the changes will at no stage be accepted as a permanent solution. I look forward to their response.”

A joint statement from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust and NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said:

“We understand and appreciate the local interest in this important service and we share the same passion for providing the best possible access to high quality care.

This is a temporary change resulting from the level of staff vacancies and the need to ensure safe access to vital specialist radiology services 24/7.

Our priority throughout has been to strike the right balance between safety of acute specialist services and local access to routine x-ray as far as possible.

Through effective joint working, we have been able to maintain weekly x-ray provision at all the local community hospitals. We have also scheduled x-ray availability to support outpatient clinics so that as many people as possible can access services as normal and waiting times do not increase.

Importantly, all partners are committed to restoring services as quickly as possible. This includes options to improve recruitment, whilst retaining the excellent staff we already have in place.”