Call for reassurance over re-opening of Skegness Hosital urgent care facility
For nearly a year now patients needing emergency care during the night have had to go to Pilgrim Hospital in Boston - 25 miles away.
A letter asking for clarification was sent to the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group after the last meeting of the town council.
The response signed by three chief executives - John Turner of the NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Maz Fosh, of the \Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust and Andrew Morgan of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust - explained the overnight temporary closure of the Urgent Treatment Centre by LCHS until Wednesday, March 31 was due to "circumstances we face brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic".
They said the temporary change had helped the LCHS "transfer our staff to support services in the local Skegness area facing additional pressures due to the impact of coronavirus, including our community nursing teams and inpatient wards."
However, with the hopes that by the end of March the Covid-19 restrictions will start to be lifted and visitors will be allowed to return, councilors said it was not enough to 'assume' the centre would automatically re-open.
The original motion seeking clarification came from Coun Mark Anderson, He said as well as councillors' views he had also seen the result of the public consultation regarding Skegness Hospital, in which 72% of residents were concerned about the closure of the centre in the middle of the pandemic.
"In it the chief executives say we residents can phone for help 111 if we have a medical emergency at night.," he said.
"If anyone has phoned 111 they will know it is a call centre in Sheffield. What I'm asking for and what I guess the residents were asking for is a medical service not a centre based in Sheffield, who are people not medically trained.
"I have known many residents who have gone to Skegness Hospital with a young child running a temperature etc, only to find it closed but not wanting to go to Boston because of the situation there with Covid-19 patients in the A&E Department.
"I find it unacceptable that we, a population of 22,000, have no medical cover during the hours of 10pm and 8am.
"I'm flabbergasted this has happened in the middle of a pandemic. To say you can call 111 and book an appointment when it is open - if you have a young child in pain or you have a fall - and you have to wait in pain or travel to Boston where all the Covid is, is not good enough.
"I want to make sure we get back the hospital on a 24-hour service on March 31. If we don't then I. like we did in the 00s, will start a petition of thousands of people wanting to sign it. I'm not having a go at the amazing work of the doctors and NHS health professions.
"What I am saying to the chief executives and the Trust Boards is you have made a wrong decision here in taking away medical cover for us here in Skegness and you should be ashamed. That is unacceptable"
Coun Danny Brookes agreed and said: "I worry when we get to March they will say let's put it back a bit further - we have to cut costs, we are in a pandemic.
"But why should cutting corners make Skegness suffer - they have build Nightingale Hospitals elsewhere in the country but they can't keep our Urgent Care open. I just think it's poor service to Skegness per usual."
Coun Steve Kirk said he has some sympathy with the writers of the letter, saying they had made this closure to allow them to transfer staff to other areas facing pressures during the pandemic.
"I'd like to know how many have transferred over to do that and are at Pilgrim," he said. "I appreciate they are under pressure but, as Coun Anderson said, to have an emergency and ring 111, as I had to recently, well... During the winter months, the A52 is not a great road with the debris from tractors - add a little bit of ice and maybe some snow it's a journey they will not want to make in the small hours of the morning.
"Whilst I have sympathy for the letter and the reasons behind it, I'm sure those who campaigned for Grantham A&E got a similar kind of letter and look what's happened there - delay month after month after month.
"So I share the concerns with my colleagues on this council. If they (LCHS) say March 31 it has to be March 31 - and that is something that is not up or negotiation because we have Easter weekend and if things are allowed to open up in April and we have more people around we will definitely need that service."
Coun Sid Dennis asked if there was any way for the council to evidence the through-put of people who had been diverted to Boston. "If there is a problem we need to fix it and we have to evidence what we are fixing," he said. "Maybe a Freedom of Information request could help. We need to evidence what we say - whether there are thousands or there are five being diverted."
Coun Dan Kirk proposed the town clerk 'did some digging' so they can send a factually based persuasive letter to the LCHS or put in a Freedom of Information request. "I agree with colleagues that even if it is one person it's still significant but until we can write back with evidence we are just hot airing the situation," he said.
However, Coun Adrian Findley said the situation was urgent. He said: "We still need to contact them. The last thing you want is a parent with a child who has had an accident rushing to the hospital to find nothing available and then have a further half hour to get in a queue that could potentially cost lives.
"Ultimately, it's an urgent care centre that is needed urgently - and whether it saves one life or a thousand lives is irrelevant."
Coun Anderson said the council should be asking the MP for Boston and Skegness Matt Warman to ask the Trust these questions on the council's behalf.
"Where we come from we will have doors shut in our faces - but an MP get direct answers from Trust boards that make these decisions," he said.
Coun Steve Kirk said the proposals on the table would take too long and the council should write back to the executives, expressing the council's understanding of the need to move staff around but with a request they give a concrete assurance to the council to say the Urgent Treatment Centre will be open no later than March 31.
The motion was carried.